LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
AUTHORISED TRANSLATION FROM THE FRENCH
( LIFE OF
WITH A PREFACE BY
SIR RAY LANKESTER K.C.B. F.R.S.
BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
Printed in Great Britain.
IT has been a great satisfaction to me to carry out the
wish of my dear friend Elie Metchnikoff, and arrange
for the production of an English translation of his
biography. The account of his life and work written
by Olga Metchnikoff is a remarkable and beautiful
record of the development and activities of a great
discoverer. It is remarkable because it is seldom
that one who undertakes such a task has had so
constant a share in, and so complete a knowledge and
understanding of, the life portrayed as in the present
case : seldom that the intimate thought and mental
" adventure " of a discoverer presents so clear and
consistent a history. It is beautiful because it is
put before us with perfect candour and simplicity
guided by rare intelligence and inspired by deep
affection. Madame Metchnikoff has drawn the
picture of the development of a single-minded
character absolutely and tenaciously devoted to a
high purpose the improvement of human life. It
is a story of " struggles and adventures," but they
are wholly in the field of the investigation of Nature.
We read here little or nothing of the quest for personal
advancement, for fortune or official position. These
things had no attraction for Metchnikoff. He left
vi LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
Russia and took an unpaid post in Paris in order to
have a place to work in. He had many devoted
friends in whose company he sought refreshment and
relaxation, but all his immense energy and industry
were concentrated on the development and establish-
ment of his great biological theory of " Phagocytosis "
and its outcome, the philosophy of life called by him
" Orthobiosis." This volume tells truly of a simple
life a life in which the social incidents which fill so
large a space in most lives were either non-existent
or unnoticed because, by the side of the great purpose
which dominated MetchnikofFs every thought and
action namely, the advancement of Science lie was
not touched by them. He was affectionate, kind-
hearted, and truly considerate of others, but was, in
a way which is traceable to his racial origin, a practical
idealist concentrating his whole strength and reason
on the realisation of what he held to be the highest
I had as an eager reader of memoirs on bio-
logical subjects become acquainted with Metchnikoff's
earliest publications in 1865, when he was twenty
years of age and I two years younger. I wrote short
accounts of them, as they appeared, for a chronicle
of progress in the Quarterly Journal of Microscopical
Science, then edited by my father. Those on a
European Land Planarian, on the development of
Myzostomum (the parasite of the Feather-Star), on
Apsilus, a strange new kind of wheel-animalcule, and
his protest against Rudolf Leuckart's treatment of
him in the matter of his important discoveries con-
cerning the Frog's lung-worm Ascaris nigrovenosa
remain in my memory, and later, in 1872, I was
especially struck by his important demonstration of
the true mode of development of the gastrula of the
calcareous sponges in correction of Professor Ernst
Haeckel. Many other papers of his became known
to me, until in 1881 he published his first observa-
tions on Intracellular Digestion in Lower Animals,
which was the starting-point of his life's work on
" Phagocytosis," to which all his subsequent re-
searches during thirty-five years were exclusively
In L888 I was introduced by my friend Lauder
Brunton to the great Pasteur, and called on him at
his laboratory in the rue d'Ulm. There I met
Metchnikoff, only lately arrived from Russia, and
welcomed as one of his staff by Pasteur. The next
year, 1889, Pasteur was installed in the new " Institut
Pasteur " in the rue Dutot, and I met Metchnikoff
there in his new quarters. Pasteur's assistants were
carrying on daily his system of inoculation against
rabies, and many British subjects were amongst those
treated. I persuaded the Lord Mayor of that year,
Sir James Whitehead, to visit the Pasteur Institute
with a view to taking steps to make some recognition
of the services rendered by Pasteur to our fellow-
countrymen in treating over two hundred of them
threatened with hydrophobia. Sir James called a
meeting on July 1, 1889, at the Mansion House, and
placed the management of it in my hands. As a
result we obtained subscriptions to a fund which
viii LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
enabled us to assist many poor British subjects to
visit Paris for the purpose of undergoing M. Pasteur's
treatment, to make a donation of 30,000 francs to the
Pasteur Institute, and to initiate with a sum of
300 the formation of a fund for the purpose of
establishing an Institute in London similar in purpose
and character to the Institut Pasteur. That initial
fund has step by step received generous additions and
given us the " Lister Institute " on Chelsea Embank-
ment possessed of buildings, site, and capital valued
at more than 300,000.
After 1889 it was rare for a year to pass without
my visiting Paris both in spring and summer, and
seeing a great deal of Metchnikoff and his friends
Roux, Duclaux, Laveran, and the great master of the
Pastorians, who died in 1895. Metchnikoff took me
to his home and cemented his friendship with me by
bringing to me that of his gifted and devoted wife.
Madame Metchnikoff had when a schoolgirl studied
zoology under her future husband at Odessa, and now
was able to give serious help in some of his researches.
She published some experimental investigation on the
sterilisation of the alimentary canal of tadpoles and
some other researches, and having a thorough know-
ledge of English, which Elie did not possess, she helped
him in reading and translating from that language.
But her chief talents were in the arts of painting and
sculpture, and when they purchased their country
house at Sevres, she built a studio in the garden in
which to pursue her vocation.
Metchnikoff on several occasions came to England
to take part in " congresses " or to give special
addresses, and often stayed a day or two with me in
London. 1 I was with him at the Darwin Celebration
at Cambridge in 1909, and the last occasion when he
came was to give the Priestley Lecture of the National
Health Society in November 1912. At my request
he selected " The Warfare against Tuberculosis " as
his subject, and gave a most valuable account of the
history and actual condition of that enterprise,
relating the important results of his expedition to the
Kalmuk Tartars for the purpose of studying the
immunity from and the liability to infection by
tuberculosis among that nomad population. The
lecture was delivered in French, and I made a trans-
lation of it which appeared with numerous illustra-
tions in the journal called Bedrock, published by
Constable & Co. I mention that publication here
as it is the only one excepting the three lectures on
" The New Hygiene " (Heinemann, London, 1906)
originally published in an English form by Metchnikoff ,
and deserves more attention from the English medical
public than it has received.
I found Metchnikoff a delightful companion. He
always had something new or of special interest to
show to me at the laboratory some microscopical
preparation, the digestive process in Protozoa, the
microbian parasite of a water-flea, a new method of
1 He received an honorary degree at Cambridge in 1891, and also
attended the International Medical Congress in London in that year. In
1901 he gave a lecture at Manchester on the intestinal flora. In 1906 he
gave a course of three lectures in London on "The New Hygiene." I
translated them for him, and they were published as a little volume by
x LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
dark ground illumination with high powers (Com-
mandant's method for film production), the newly
discovered Treponema of syphilis, or the experimental
inoculation of a disease under study. Sometimes I
would lunch at his house, when, although he neither
smoked nor took alcoholic drinks himself, he made a
point of giving me first-rate claret and a good cigar.
It was about the year 1900 that he arranged for the
preparation of a pure " sour milk " made by the use
of a special lactic ferment (selected and cultivated
by hknself), and this he took regularly. I found it a
most agreeable food, and for several years made it
an article of my own diet. He was very careful about
the possible contamination of uncooked food by
bacteria and the eggs of parasitic worms, and in
consequence had " rolls " sent to him from the bakers
each in its separate paper bag, whilst he would never
eat uncooked salads or fruit which could not be
rendered safe by " peeling." This was not an excess
of caution, but resulted from his characteristic deter-
mination to carry out in practice the directions given
by definite scientific knowledge, and to make the
attempt to lead so far as possible a life free from
disease. Often when I arrived in Paris he would
invite me to lunch at one of the leading cafes, and
though he ate very simple food himself took keen
pleasure in ordering the best for me and thoroughly
enjoyed the change of scene and the amenities of a
first-rate restaurant. During one of his visits to
London, I remember that he was invited, and I with
him, on two or three occasions, by leading London
physicians to dinner-parties. He was greatly shocked
at the amount of strong wine which his hosts and
fellow-guests consumed, and assured me that in Paris
it would be injurious to the reputation of a physician
were he not to set an example of either abstinence or
Metchnikofi was not only exceedingly gentle and
courteous in his treatment of servants and employes,
but he and his wife contrived on a very small income
to help in a most substantial way poor neighbours
and those who had met with misfortune whether they
were of French or Russian nationality. They had
many friends in the world of science and art, real
workers and thinkers, including those who had not
and those who had " arrived." With them I met
and spent a long and interesting day with Rodin the
sculptor and the son of Leon Tolstoi, who was
working in a Paris studio. Among the pleasures
which I have derived from the Life are the accounts
of places such as Naples and Messina, where I
stayed in order to study the embryology of marine
animals as Metchnikoff did ; and also the appear-
ance in these pages from time to time of old friends
such as Nikolas Kleinenberg, whom Metchnikofi met
at Messina in 1883. I had formed an intimate
acquaintance with Kleinenberg at Jena in 1871,
when he was working at his classical monograph
on Hydra, and continued it at Naples in 1875.
From Messina, where he became Professor in 1875,
Kleinenberg sent me for publication in the Quarterly
Journal of Microscopical Science his valuable memoir
xii LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
on the embryology of a species of Earthworm, and
also rare and interesting specimens of Cephalopoda.
Another great and noteworthy figure about whom
all zoologists are glad to learn as much as possible is
Kovalevsky. Metchnikoff made his acquaintance
at Naples in 1864, and they formed a close friendship
for one another. Later, in 1867, they shared the Baer
Prize of the Petersburg Academy for their discoveries
in embryology (p. 58). In 1868 Metchnikoff had a
dispute with Kovalevsky as to the origin of the
nervous system of Ascidia (p. 62), concerning which
he subsequently admitted that he was wrong and
Kovalevsky right. There is no doubt that Kovalevsky,
by his numerous important investigations of inverte-
brate embryology, and especially of that of Ascidia
and Amphioxus, laid the foundation of cellular
Embryology, and the modern study of the embryology
of Invertebrates. Metchnikoffs contributions were
also of great value and importance (pp. 51, 52, 53,
and pp. 72 and 73), though he has not so great a
triumph in animal morphology to his credit as
Kovalevsky's discovery of the close identities of the
development of organs in Ascidia and Amphioxus.
I had long cherished profound esteem for Kovalevsky
when in 1896 I met him and his daughter at Wimereux
with Professor Giard. He came in the autumn of
that year to London, but left unexpectedly owing to
some nervous fear of annoyance by the police. The
great position of Kovalevsky was deliberately ignored
in a German history of Zoology, 1 published just before
1 By Prof. Hertwig of Munich.
the Great War. Metchnikoff describes Kovalevsky
as a young man, small and timid, with shy but cordial
manners and the clear sweet eyes of a child : he had
(like Metchnikoff) for Science an absolute cult " no
sacrifice was too great, no difficulty too repellent for
It is, I think, desirable to assure the reader of
this book that the actual state of knowledge in
regard to various subjects discussed in the Life at the
time when they were made the subjects of study by
Metchnikoff is fairly and correctly sketched, and the
growth and development of his views and original
discoveries are correctly given. But it must be
remembered that this Life is not a critical discussion
of the steps by which our knowledge of cell-layers,
of intracellular digestion, and other factors con-
tributory to Metchnikoff 's doctrine of Phagocytosis
and its outcomes were reached. Others played an
important if a subsidiary part in building up that
knowledge. What we have here is an account of
the growth of Metchnikoff's own observations and
theoretical inferences, which were so independent, and
founded on such decisive original observations, as to
make him a solitary figure contending, and successfully
contending, during the best years of his lifetime for
the recognition of a great generalisation for long
opposed by most of the medical and physiological
authorities of the time, and finally established by his
lifelong researches and those of his faithful pupils
and coadjutors. The recognition of the validity of
xiv LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
the doctrine of 'phagocytosis in relation to wounds,
disease, immunity, and normal healthy life is the
triumphant result of the scientific insight and bound-
less energy of Elie Metchnikoff.
E. RAY LANKESTER.
1845. Panassovka MetchnikofFs parents Country life in
Little Russia 1
MetchnikofFs brothers and sister Childish characteristics
1850. Journey to Slaviansk The coach attacked by peasants 12
1851. Departure for Kharkoff Town life . . .16
1853-1856. Leo MetchnikofFs illness Private tutors
Botanical studies A memorable birthday . .19
Ancestors of the Metchnikoff family The great "Spatar" Leo
xvi LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
1856-1861. The Kharkoff Lyce"e Bogomoloff and Socialism
Atheism Natural History studies Private lodgings
Private lessons in histology from Professor Tschelkoff A
borrowed microscope First article Italian opera The
gold medal ... .28
An early love A schoolfellow's sister A pretty sister-in-law . 35
1862. Journey to Germany Leipzig, Wiirzburg A hasty return 37
1863. Kharkoff University Physiology The Vorticella
Controversy with Kiihne The Origin of Species Gastero-
tricha University degree . , . . .40
1864-1866. Heligoland Giessen Congress Leuckart Visit
to Leo Metchnikoff at Geneva Socialist gatherings
Metchnikoffs discovery appropriated by Leuckart Naples
Kovalevsky Comparative embryology Embryonic
layers Bakounine and Setch6noff Cholera at Naples
Gottingen Anatomical studies Munich ; von Sieboldt
Music Return to Naples Intracellular digestion . 43
1867-1868. Petersburg Baer Prize Return home Friend-
ship with Cienkovsky Odessa Naturalists' Congress at
Petersburg Departure from Odessa Zoological Lecturer's
Chair at Petersburg Messina Enforced rest Reggio
Naples Controversy with Kovalevsky Visit to the
B. family Mile. F&Iorovitch Educational questions
Difficulties of life in Petersburg . . . ,58
1868-1873. Slight illness Engagement to Mile. Fddorovitch
Marriage Illness of the bride Pecuniary difficulties
Spezzia Montreux Work in Petersburg University
The Riviera Coelomata and Accelomata St Vaast
Panassovka Madeira Mertens Teneriffe Return to
Odessa Bad news, hurried journey to Madeira Death of
hiswife(1872) Return through Spain Attempted suicide
Ephemeridse . . . . . .65
1874. Anthropological expedition to the Kalmuk steppes
Affection of the eyes Second expedition to the steppes
The eggs of the Geophilus . . . .82
1875. Studies on childhood The family in the upper flat
Lessons in zoology Second marriage Private life Visit
and death of Lvovna Nevahovna Conjugal affection . 86
1875-1880. Metchnikoff at the age of 30 Lecturing in Odessa
University, from 1873 to 1882 Internal difficulties
Assassination of the Tsar, Alexander II. Further troubles
in the University Resignation Bad health: cardiac
symptoms Relapsing fever Choroiditis Studies on
Ephemeridae Further studies on intracellular digestion
The Parenchymella Holidays in the country Experi-
ments on agricultural pests . . . .96
1881-1882. Death of his father- and mother-in-law Manage-
ment of country estates Agitation and difficulties De-
parture for Messina with young brothers- and sisters-in-law 112
xviii LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
1883. Messina Inception of the phagocyte theory Encourage-
ment from Virchow and Kleinenberg First paper on phago-
cytosis at a Congress at Odessa in 1883 The question of
immunity Article in Virchow's Archiv, 1884 . . 115
1884-1885. Ill-health of his wife and sister-in-law Journey
to Tangiers through Spain Villefranche Baumgarten
criticises the phagocyte theory . . . .123
1886. A Bacteriological Institute in Odessa Unsatisfactory
conditions Experiments on erysipelas and on relapsing
fever .... ... 127
1887. Hygiene Congress in Vienna Wiesbaden Munich
Paris and Pasteur Berlin and Koch Failure of anthrax
vaccination of sheep Decision to leave Kussia . .131
1888. The Pasteur Institute Dreams realised Metchnikoff
at 50 Growing optimism Attenuated sensitiveness
The Sevres villa (1898) Daily routine . . .135
1892. Opposition to the phagocyte theory Scientific con-
troversies Experiments in support of the phagocyte theory
Behring and antitoxins The London Congress
Inflammation . . . . . .147
Cholera Experiments on himself and others Illness of M.
Jupille Death of an epileptic subject Insufficient results 154
1894. Pfeiffer's experiments The Buda-Pest Congress
Extracellular destruction of microbes Reaction of the
organism against toxins Dr. Besredka's researches
Macrophages The Moscow Congress Bordet's experiments 168
1900. Immunity Natural immunity Artificial immunity . 168
1893-1905. Private sorrows Death of Pasteur Ill-health
Senile atrophies Premature death Orthobiosis
Syphilis (1905) Acquisition of anthropoid apes (1903) . 181
Researches on the intestinal flora Sour milk. . .196
1908. The Nobel Prize Journey to Sweden and Russia A
day with Leon Tolstoi . . . . .199
Intestinal flora Infantile cholera Typhoid fever Articles on
popular Science ..... 206
1911. Expedition to the Kalmuk steppes to study tuberculosis
Plague . . . . . . .210
Further researches on the intestinal flora Forty Years' Search
for a Rational Conception of Life . . .220
xx LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
Unpleasant incidents The fabrication of lacto-bacilli St.
Le"ger-en-Yvelines Return to Paris First cardiac attack
Evolution of the death instinct Notes on his symptoms 225
1914. Return to St. Le"ger-en- Yvelines Norka Studies on the
death of the silk-worm moth War declared Mobilisation 237
1915. Return to Paris The deserted Institute Memoir on the
Founders of Modern Medicine MetchnikofPs Jubilee
Last holidays at Norka . . ,. " . ' . 244
1916. Bronchial cold Aggravated cardiac symptoms Farewell
to Sevres Return to the Institute Protracted sufferings
Intellectual preoccupations Observations on his own
condition The end Cremation . . .254
EPILOGUE. .. . ' . . . . 276
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL APPENDIX . . .285
INDEX , 291
ON a calm summer evening we were seated together
on our terrace.
On the preceding day, one who hardly knew my
husband had come to ask him for information con-
cerning his life, with the object of writing his biography.
We were saying to each other how inevitably super-
ficial and incomplete such a biography was bound to
be ; how difficult such a task is for a biographer, even
when fully informed ; how necessary it is to be
thoroughly acquainted with a man and with every
phase of his existence in order to give a truthful
picture of his character and of his life. The intimate
side is bound to remain more or less closed to a
stranger ; in order to decipher it, it is indispensable
for the writer of a biography to have lived in complete
communion of spirit with its subject. Our long past,
spent together, fulfilled all these conditions.
My husband's whole life was well known to me.
My mother-in-law had often told me vivid stories of
his childhood ; he himself willingly talked to me
about his past. As to the second part of his existence,
we had lived it together.
In order clearly to understand his character, at
xxii LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
once both complex and one-sided, it was necessary to
possess the key to his psychology. In his life, as in
his work, everything was so closely knitted that it
was impossible to understand the whole without know-
ledge of every link of his evolution.
In the soothing calm of that summer evening, I
submitted my reflections to him ; he warmly en-
couraged me, and I then and there resolved to write
his biography. He advised me to relate his whole
life without any reticence, considering that thus
alone does a biography justify its existence. That
advice was to guide me, within limits, for to dissect
an individual life without touching other li ves as well
is not always possible.
Numerous were the difficulties before me ; yet, I
considered the task as a mission, hoping, in spite of
all, that this biography would present a true picture
of the life and evolution of Elie Metchnikoff.
We talked over this project for a long time. The
moon now appeared above the trees, the soft light
tracing silver designs through the ivy leaves. The
lawn, the walnut tree in front of the house, and every-
thing around us was bathed in peaceful radiance.
Under its mysterious charm, we ceased to speak, we
listened to the inward voices of nature and of our
In youth, vague reveries fill our minds ; after a long
life, distant memories. ... He whose life I describe
is no more. . . . Without his help my task could not
have been accomplished.
Often, when he was not too tired, he would sit
comfortably in his armchair and recount to me with
his usual spirit and animation some period or episode
of his past. I read to him a sketch of the first part of
this biography and a few chapters only of the second,
which was hardly begun. Thus we spent many
evenings, never to be forgotten.
He wanted this biography written, for he held that
the evolution of a mind, of a character, of a human
life is always an interesting psychological document.
During his long and painful illness, he urged me to
relate the " last chapter " of his life ; he hoped that
his attitude in the face of death might diminish the
fear of it in others. Also he considered that men are
rare who are conscious until the end ; even rarer, those
who reach the development of the " death-instinct."
Therefore, according to him, an example would be
I have tried to accomplish his desire within the
measure of my strength.
The only object of this simple and truthful story
is to show Elie Metchnikoff as he was, a help, a support,
and a lesson to others.
I dedicate this book to his dear memory.
SfevBES, 15th Dec. 1918.
Panassovka Metchnikoff's parents Country life in Little Russia.
IN Little Russia, in the steppe region of the province
of Kharkoff, is situated the land of Panassovka, which
belonged to the Metchnikoff family. It is now sold,
it has passed into strange hands, but it was once the
patrimony of Ilia Ivanovitch, father of Elie Metch-
The country around Panassovka is neither beautiful
nor rich : steppes, hillocks covered with low grasses
and wild wormwood ; a poor village, meagre vegeta-
tion, no river ; the whole impression is a melancholy
one. But what boundless space ! What soft, silver
grey colouring ! And, in the mornings and evenings,
what fresh, cool air, and what a delicious aroma of
wormwood leaves !
The house of Panassovka, a little way from the
village, is situated on a hill which slopes gently
towards a pond. It is like that of any other middle-
class landowner in Little Russia. It has only one
storey and two nights of steps on the principal fa9ade,
opening into a deserted courtyard with no view but
the high road. On the other side a semicircular
terrace, with columns and steps, leads to the garden,
composed of a few meagre flower-beds and fruit trees,
reaching to the pond. On the bank, a distillery and
a very well-kept kitchen garden.
2 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
The house is arranged inside in a commonplace
manner, with no claim to beauty or comfort. The
furniture, devoid of style or elegance, neither com-
fortable nor fashionable, is distributed quite inartistic-
ally. On the other hand, great care is evident in
everything that pertains to the table : the cellars
and larders are full of provisions, and obviously con-
stitute the principal preoccupation of the masters of
the house. And indeed the hospitable table of Panas-
sovka is renowned throughout the neighbourhood.
According to a very fine portrait, painted in 1835,
Ilia Ivanovitch was at that time a handsome young
man with regular features, tender blue eyes, and curly
fair hair. He was very intelligent, but his mind had
that sceptical turn which prevents men from taking life
seriously and which paralyses activity. Moreover, he
had an Epicurean temperament and was in the army.
He had married, when very young, Emilia Lvovna
Nevahovna, sister of one of his brother officers in
the Imperial Guard, a very attractive and unusually
intelligent girl. Her beauty was of the Jewish type,
with splendid dark eyes, and she had a bright and
lively disposition as well as a kind and tender heart.
Her friends called her " Milotchka," which, in Russian,
means " charming " ; in her old age she loved to
relate that the great Russian poet, Pushkin, once said
to her at a ball, " How well your name suits you,
Mademoiselle ! "
After his marriage, Ilia Ivanovitch remained in
Petersburg, leading a merry life with his brothers-in-
law, and giving no thought to the future ; it took
him but a few years at that rate to spend the whole
of his wife's inheritance. And three children were
growing up whose future had to be thought of. It was
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 3
then that Ilia Ivanovitch's distant estate was remem-
bered, away in a remote part of Little Eussia. What
energy, what perseverance had to be displayed by
his wife before she could persuade him to take refuge
there ! and how hard it must have seemed to the gay
officer to leave the capital for the lonely and mono-
tonous life of the country ! However, departure
was decided upon. The two boys, Ivan and Leo,
were placed in a school at Petersburg, to be prepared
for the Lycee and the Law School. Ilia Ivanovitch
obtained a post as Remount Officer for two Guards
regiments, and started with his wife, his daughter,
an aunt, and a younger brother, to settle down in the
The family settled at first in the old Ivanovka
house, where a son, Nicholas, was born. Though they
wished to have no more children, one more child was
born two years later, on the 16th May 1845 Elie
The Ivanovka house was old and inconvenient ;
Ilia Ivanovitch decided to build a new one at the other
end of his estate, in a place called Panassovka, which
thus became the family home.
Emilia Lvovna threw herself into her domestic
occupations with her usual energy and ardour. She
was anxious to improve the situation, which had
become precarious, and wished at the same time to
create for her husband an environment suited to his
Epicurean tastes. Ilia Ivanovitch loved cards and
the table, both tastes easy to satisfy in the country,
and which became the pivot of life at Panassovka.
The great daily problem was the question of meals,
and long conversations had to take place with the
cook and with the housekeeper concerning catering.
4 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
Thanks to serfdom, servants were very numerous
and everything could be manufactured at home.
The " dievitshia " (maid-servants' room) was crowded
with maids, seamstresses, needle-women, washer-
women, etc., under the direction of a fat, middle-aged
woman named Duniasha. She wore a silk kerchief
on her head, and was invariably clothed in a white
dressing jacket and a brown skirt with white spots.
A regular autocrat, she ruled her little world with a
rod of iron ; as soon as her heavy, felt-slippered steps
were heard, the maids whispered to each other,
" Avdotia Maximo vna ! " conversations ceased, and
every one became absorbed in her work.
Among the male retainers, the first place was held
by Petrushka, the valet. Careless and often drunk,
he was nevertheless a good fellow ; he was usually
to be found asleep behind the screen in the hall. The
upper servants, the cook, coachman, and others left
their work to be done by their underlings, the scullery
boy, postilion, page-boy, etc. In fact, everything
followed the routine usual in every Russian household
in the time of serfdom.
Emilia Lvovna directed the children's education ;
her personal teaching consisted chiefly in tender
indulgence, but it was she who chose the nurses and
teachers. As long as the boys were small, their
great-aunt Elena Samoilovna looked after them ;
afterwards they were handed over to tutors and
professors. Ilia Ivanovitch's activities consisted in
buying horses at fairs and in studs and in convoying
them to Petersburg. These journeys took a long time,
by stages and relays of horses. Ilia Ivanovitch took
advantage of them to gamble heavily and to enjoy
pleasures which the country did not offer.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 5
Agriculture was very restricted at Panassovka,
for the property consisted mostly of pasture land for
horses and sheep. The younger brother, Dmitri
Ivanovitch, had undertaken the management of the
estate. He was entirely devoted to the family of his
elder brother, whom he had followed into the country.
Though only a few years younger, he used the respect-
ful second person plural in speaking to Ilia Ivano-
vitch, whilst the latter said " thou " to him. Dmitri
Ivanovitch was tall, thin, and taciturn, a silent pipe-
smoker. The lively Emilia Lvovna often said to
him, " But why do you never talk, Mitienka ? " To
which he invariably answered, "It is not every one
who is as talkative as you are, Emilia Lvovna." Yet
they were on the best of terms. Dmitri Ivanovitch
would have gone through fire for his sister-in-law,
as she well knew. She had the utmost confidence in
him, and depended upon his support in every difficult
At Panassovka the men spent the greater part
of the day, and often even of the night, in playing
cards ; games were organised between neighbours and
relations, and that occupation was considered most
important. Meals were prolonged indefinitely ; every-
thing was served in abundance and eaten with a con-
noisseur's appreciation, each dish being discussed.
After the meal was over, the cook would make his
daily appearance, and the next day's menu was drawn
up by the whole party. After a siesta, gambling was
resumed. Thus the days went by in the cult of good
cheer and of cards, interspersed with conversations
about horses and sometimes about politics.
By this time Hia Ivanovitch was beginning to
become bald and obese. It is difficult to define what
6 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
was his inner life ; not even to his wife did he ever
speak of it. As to his children, he petted them when
they were small, but as they grew up, their intercourse
with him was limited to kissing his hand morning and
evening. He was not indifferent to their welfare,
but left it entirely to his wife's active solicitude.
The children were on very different terms with their
mother ; not only did she spoil them, but also always
eagerly shared all their childish interests. Owing to
that, and to her bright and affectionate disposition,
they looked upon her as their intimate friend and
Masters and servants were on good terms, rela-
tions between them were even remarkably human,
according to the ideas of the time, and in spite of
certain customs inherent to serfdom. For instance,
the younger maids were punished by having their
faces slapped and their hair pulled. Even the kindly
and peaceable Dmitri Ivanovitch would soundly box
his valet's ears when he found him drunk. At that
time such things were not thought cruel or humiliating,
but looked upon as a paternal correction. The
peasants had confidence in their " barin " (master)
and consulted him or appealed to his generosity when
Ilia Ivanovitch never opposed the free choice of
his serfs in matrimony, a rare tolerance at that time.
According to custom every betrothed couple came to
salute him, the young man in his Sunday clothes and
a fine, bright-coloured scarf, the girl wearing an em-
broidered bodice and a head-dress of many-coloured
ribbons. They knelt before him and bowed three
times to the ground, then offered him sacramental
loaves, hard and shaped like pine cones, on beautifully
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 7
worked diapers. Ilia Ivanovitch and Emilia Lvovna
blessed the bride and bridegroom with " ikons,"
embraced them, and gave them a sum of money for
The Metchnikofls were liked by their peasants
and looked upon as good masters.
Metchnikoff's brothers and sister Childish characteristics.
THE two elder children, Ivan and Leo, were educated
at Petersburg, whilst Katia, the only daughter, was
brought up at home. Like all other girls of noble
family, she was educated with the object of being
suitably married. She was a slender, pretty brunette,
like her mother, but less beautiful. Though sensitive
and intelligent, she interested herself in nothing but
the reading of French novels. There was a great
difference in age between Katia and her little brothers,
whilst there were only two years between them.
Kolia (Nicholas) was the old aunt's favourite, a fine,
handsome boy with velvety black eyes ; his slow and
grave movements had earned for him the nickname of
" Peaceful Papa."
The youngest of the family, Ilia (Elie), on the
contrary, was full of life and spirits. Fair and slender,
with silky hair and a diaphanous, pink and white
complexion, he had small, grey-blue eyes, full of
kindliness and sparkle. ' Very highly strung and im-
pressionable, his temper was easily roused, and he was
so restless that he went by the name of " quicksilver."
He always wished to see everything, to know every-
thing, and found his way everywhere. When, after a
long silence, there was a sudden outburst of many
voices around the card-tables, he would rush to the
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 9
drawing-room, saying, " Are they going to fight ? "
He ran about the house all day, following his mother
as she attended to her various duties ; he examined
the provisions, tasted everything, and even went to
the " dievitshia " to see what the maids were doing.
He tried to sew or to embroider, exasperated every-
body, and ended by being turned out. He would then
look for something else to do, go to see whether the
table was laid, inquire about the menu, and ask the
queerest questions. He could only be kept quiet
when his curiosity was awakened by the observation
of some natural object such as an insect or a butterfly
that he was trying to catch, or by watching the
" grown-ups " at their card games. But, of all things,
music fascinated him most, and he would remain for
hours sitting by the piano listening without a move-
ment. He was very much spoilt by his mother, who
had a weakness for her Benjamin, and who also wished
to make up for the very obvious preference shown for
Kolia by the great-aunt.
Moreover, Ilia was a frail little boy and often
suffered from his eyes ; the doctor advised that he
should not be allowed to cry or to rub his eyes, and,
in order to avoid this, he was permitted to have his
own way in everything. He was much too intelligent
not to understand the advantage that the situation
offered and was quick to profit by it. In the face of
the least semblance of refusal or reproach, he would
begin to rub his eyes and announce in a whining tone
that he was going to cry. He was therefore very much
spoilt and very capricious ; his mother said he was
" neurotic " ; his sister, who often had differences
with him, called him a " little beast." In reality, Hia
was very good-hearted, tender, and loving ; he was
10 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
affectionate, especially with his mother, and could
always be managed by an appeal to his feelings. But
if he was sensitive to kindness, he was equally so to
the least injustice. He could not forgive his great-
aunt the predilection which she exhibited on every
occasion for Kolia ; for instance, at table, she would
choose tit-bits for him, and Ilia observed with bitter-
ness that she always reserved the chicken's breast for
her favourite. Every time a chicken was served,
poor Ilia followed the dish round the table with
anxious eyes, and she invariably placed the coveted
morsel in his brother's plate.
When the day was over, Ilia was put into his little
bed and told to " say his prayers and go to sleep."
But he did not obey at once : after a thousand merry
tricks, his eyelids would begin to close in spite of him ;
then he would make up his mind to kneel and say his
prayers, folding his little hands : " Lord, keep and
preserve father, mother, great But suddenly
remembering the latter's injustice towards him, he
would correct himself hastily, " No, not great-aunt,
she is too unkind ! " and continue, " My sister, my
brothers, everybody, and myself, little Ilia." Still he
did not go to sleep immediately ; a nervous child, he
was frightened of being alone ; now and then he
would lift his heavy lids to see if the maid was still
there. Sometimes the latter, thinking he had gone
to sleep, would leave the room on tiptoe. Hia,
seeing her no more, would start, raise his head and,
stretching his thin neck, send an anxious look around
the room, faintly lighted by a night-light. The vacil-
lating flame threw trembling and dancing shadows.
Seized with intense terror, he would hide his face in
his pillow and scream with all his might. Avdotia
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 11
Maximovna would then rush to soothe him and
soundly rate the servant girl, " Are you not ashamed
to leave a noble child all alone ? " Hia would then
go on sobbing for a little while, but, reassured after all,
would presently sink into deep, childish sleep.
Journey to Slaviansk The coach attacked by peasants.
IN 1850 the children were taken to the baths of
Slaviansk. On a warm summer day the heavy
" berlin " coach, drawn by six horses with a postilion,
rolled along the high road, across the steppes, followed
at a distance by a " tarantass." l
In the spacious, antique coach, with its dusty
hood, sat Emilia Lvovna, with her three children ;
the valet, Petrushka, dozed on the box, next to the
coachman. The tarantass was occupied by Dmitri
Ivanovitch and a cousin.
The heat was oppressive. At the start every one
was excited ; Emilia Lvovna was trying to remember
if anything had been forgotten and was discussing
with Katia the details of their installation at Slaviansk.
The boys hung out of the windows, gazing at the
horses, at the tarantass, and making all sorts of
comments. Ilia was so restless and talkative that
he was constantly being told, " Do be quiet ! Keep
still ! "
By degrees, however, children and " grown-ups "
began to feel drowsy, owing to the monotony of the
road, the heat, and the swinging of the carriage. The
tarantass had disappeared, for Dmitri Ivanovitch
wished to visit an aunt whose house was not far from
1 Ungainly open carriage on high wheels and without springs.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 13
the road. The outline of a forest was now seen on
the horizon ; it came nearer and nearer, and soon the
coach stopped before the forest inn. Everybody woke
up, the children were delighted to be able to run about
and stretch their limbs. They begged their mother
to let them go into the forest whilst the horses were
resting, and obtained permission to go, but not too
far, and with Petrushka.
They ate an appetising lunch at the inn and the
children ran off at a gallop. Everything delighted
them, the underwood, grass patches, ravines, and
mysterious paths. But they had hardly entered the
forest when they heard a sinister, confused rumour
in the distance ; they stopped to listen, and recog-
nised the voices of a tumultuous crowd. The chil-
dren's joyous excitement fell ; frightened and docile,
they hastened to return to the inn, from which Emilia
Lvovna, looking anxiously out of a window, was
making urgent signs to them to return. The coach
was still standing without horses, and, a little farther
ofi, the latter were surrounded by a crowd of peasants,
of whom many were completely drunk. They shouted
vociferously, and closely pressed the coachman and
the postilion, threatening to confiscate the horses and
detain the travellers if they were not given a ransom
of a thousand roubles.
Terrified, the children clung to their distracted
mother ; Ilia felt her trembling, and his own little heart
fluttered like a bird that has been caught. The
drunken peasants appeared to him like monstrous
ogres or brigands about to capture, perhaps kill, his
family and himself ; he could hardly keep back his
tears. Already the peasants had bound the coach-
man and the postilion and were taking away the
14 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
horses. Clinging close to each other, the mother and
children listened anxiously ; they thought again and
again that they could hear the bells of the tarantass.
At last it appeared in the distance, and the children
joyously whispered, " There they are ! " They
hastened to inform Dmitri Ivanovitch of what had
happened. He at once went with his cousin towards
the crowd, and negotiations were opened, but for a
long time without result.
At last the cousin had a happy idea ; he declared
he would go back to his aunt's house in the neigh-
bourhood and borrow the thousand roubles from her.
The peasants consented to let him go alone, keeping
the other travellers as hostages. After a time, which
to the children seemed endless, the sound of the
tarantass bells was again heard, accompanied this
time by numerous heavy footsteps, and the vehicle
reappeared, escorted by a company of soldiers com-
manded by two officers. Instead of going to his
aunt's, the cousin had gone to a neighbouring military
camp and was bringing assistance.
There was a sudden change of scene. Emilia
Lvovna and Katia furtively made the sign of the
cross. Ilia had let go of his mother's hand and was
no longer clinging to her, but, stretching his head
forward and opening his eyes wide, eagerly waited to
see what was going to happen. " Now," he thought,
" we shall not be captured ; it is their turn ; I am
glad ! " And, perhaps for the first time in his life,
his little heart was moved by feelings of hatred.
In the meanwhile a repulsive scene was going on :
a hand-to-hand struggle, invectives and screams. The
peasants were securely bound. Men and women
hastened from a neighbouring village ; one of the
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 15
women slapped an officer's face. Furious, he ordered
the soldiers to fill her mouth with earth ; she was
thrown on the ground ; the new arrivals in their
turn attacked the soldiers, and a regular battle raged.
Ilia was alarmed, shaken, and profoundly disgusted
with that exhibition of brutality. The coachman and
postilion, their bonds unloosed, hastened to put the
horses in, and whilst reprisals were still going on, the
family hurried away. They reached Slaviansk with-
out further trouble, excitedly talking over their adven-
ture. This episode was the first deep and definite
impression which remained on little Ilia's mind ; it
struck him so much that he kept the memory of it
during his whole life.
From that moment he held crowds, violence, and
all manifestations of brute force in the utmost horror,
whatever their cause might be.
Departure for Kharkoff Town life.
THE following year was to be spent at Kharkoff.
Katia was now seventeen and her marriage had to be
The boys' life was still quite a childish one, made
up chiefly of games and mischief. Kolia had been
taught to read by the great-aunt ; Ilia had learnt by
himself, asking people now and then for the name of
some letter. He was able to read fluently quite early.
The departure for KharkofE was a great event,
prepared long beforehand. The children, delighted
at the prospect of a change, impatiently waited for
the moment to start. At last every one was seated
in the coaches and, saying to the coachman, " Off !
God keep us," they started to drive along the high
road through the steppes.
Life at KharkofE was very much the same as
at Panassovka, with social elements added. More-
over, the children's liberty was somewhat restricted.
Already on the journey they were given to understand
that, in a town, they could not go out alone, nor
shout in the streets, nor point at people and things
with their finger, and that they should have to make
less noise, even in the house. For the first time they
unconsciously realised that their family was not the
centre of the universe, that there were many others
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 17
who also had to be taken into account. Ilia did not
welcome this discovery.
The flat occupied by the Metchnikoffe was on the
first floor, above that of the owner of the house.
One day when the children were running about,
making a fearful noise, some one came up to say that
the landlady was ill and begged that the noise should
cease. Ilia, interrupted in the midst of a game,
became furiously angry ; in his rage he seized a
whistle, and stooping to a crack in the floor, whistled
with all his might. It was only with much difficulty
that he was induced to stop and to calm himself. 1
The children's horizon soon widened ; Dmitri
Ivanovitch took them to the theatre and a new
and fantastic world opened out to them. The very
next day they attempted a performance of the play
they had seen ; soon, on Kolia's suggestion, they
began to compose plays for themselves. Kolia wrote
a drama entitled " Burning Tea," in which the hero
having offered his friend tea that was too hot, the
latter burnt his tongue ; a duel ensued, etc., etc.
Ilia hastened to follow his brother's example. He
composed something in the same style, but even more
absurd. Having realised that it was so, he gave up
literature. That period was for him a series of dis-
appointments which perhaps helped to lead him to
the path he was ultimately to follow. His brother,
following the " grown-ups' " example, played cards
with other boys or with the maids. Ilia attempted
to do the same, but his nervousness left him no self-
control ; he lost continually and games generally ended
in quarrels and tears ; he became disgusted with
1 Metchnikoff himself insisted upon the recital of this episode, for which
he had felt some remorse. He considered that, in a biography, disagree-
able traits were not to be omitted.
18 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
cards for the rest of his life. Kolia was fond of
muscular exercises, such as gymnastics, wrestling, etc.
Ilia, younger and therefore weaker, was constantly
humiliated, and his pride kept him away from physical
amusements. Thus, by means of elimination, he
became gradually isolated from surrounding influences.
But, at that time, no new element had intervened in
his daily life and he spent his existence in the gentle
warmth of his mother's tenderness, absorbed in his
childish games and studies.
Leo Metchnikoff's illness Private tutors Botanical studies
A memorable birthday.
IN 1851, in the middle of the winter, the Metchni-
koffs heard that Leo, their second son, was suffering
from hip-disease, and the doctors advised that he should
be taken away from Petersburg. Poor Emilia Lvovna
was in great despair and shed many tears ; her
brother-in-law, Dmitri Ivanovitch, calmly announced
that he was going to fetch Leo. He took his great
fur coat, his fur cap and fur-lined boots, and started
that very day for Petersburg by coach. He took but
the necessary time to go and to bring Leo back, only
stopping at relays to change horses.
The boy was then thirteen years old, handsome,
gifted, and intelligent ; he walked with crutches, but
his general health seemed good, and it was decided
that he should work at home to prepare for the Lycee,
under the tuition of students as tutors. Thus a new
element was introduced into the family life.
In 1853 Leo had as a tutor a student named
Hodounof , a very intelligent young man, who wished
not merely to teach him but to impart to him the
love of science. Leo was extremely gifted and worked
with great facility, but he lacked concentration and
was therefore somewhat superficial. This cooled his
tutor's enthusiasm, whilst on the other hand he
20 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
became more and more interested in little Ilia. It
was in the course of country walks that they were
drawn together. Hodounof used to take Leo for
walks in order to study the local flora, and Ilia came
out with them, at first for the sake of the exercise.
But soon he became interested in the flowers and
showed so much taste for botany that he attracted
Hodounof 's notice ; soon the tutor's interest became
concentrated on the little boy and he gave him serious
It was with a real enthusiasm that Ilia gathered
and studied plants ; he soon became thoroughly
acquainted with the local flora. He thought himself
very learned already and wrote memoirs on botany.
Passionately fond of teaching, he used to offer all his
pocket-money to his brothers and other children to
induce them to hear lectures which he gave them.
His vocation was fixed from that moment. He was
then eight years old.
When the family returned to Kharkoff he spent
all he had in buying books on natural history, which
he read with passionate interest. These contained
many things that he could not understand, but his
curiosity was all the greater. When he was eleven
years old his passion for natural history almost cost
him his life. While fishing for hydra in a small pond
he was so eager that he fell into the water and was
only pulled out with great difficulty.
That particular day, his own and his father's name
day, was nearly fatal to him, not only through water
but through fire. It was a family custom to hold a
great gathering of friends and relations at Panassovka
on St. Elias's day. Preparations for the feast began
days beforehand ; the whole household was in a turmoil.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 21
On that particular St. Elias's day, so many guests
came to Panassovka that there was not enough room
in the house to accommodate them all, and the
children were transferred to a pavilion outside the
Whilst in the drawing-room people were talking
and playing cards, the servants were holding rejoicings
of their own. Towards night-time the majority of
the coachmen and footmen brought by the guests
were completely drunk ; a cigarette imprudently
thrown on some hay started a fire. Soon the stables
were ablaze and many horses perished in the flames,
in spite of every effort to save them. Presently the
wind changed in the direction of the pavilion and the
thatched roof caught fire. There was a rush to save
the children, who were with much difficulty taken out
through a window.
In spite of intense terror, Ilia's first thought was
for his baby nephew, the son of his sister, who had
then been married a year ; he ran in affright all over
the house searching for the child, and only became
calm again after he had ascertained that it had been
carried out into the garden.
Katia being married there was now no reason to
spend the winter in the town. The father and mother
therefore remained at Panassovka and Dmitri Ivano-
vitch took the boys to Kharkoff , where they entered the
Lycee. They had been well prepared by their tutors,
and moreover spoke French and a little German,
having had special teachers for these languages.
Their French tutor, M. Garnier, was gay, boastful,
and pretentious; his idea of teaching them French
literature was to memorise Beranger's chansons. He
was passionately fond of shooting and gave to that
22 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
sport as much time as he could, greatly to the detri-
ment of his pupils' studies, for they were not allowed
to accompany him for fear of an accident. Their
mother, perhaps on account of her weak heart, was
so nervous that they were discouraged from any
sporting tastes. The German tutor also neglected
the children : his favourite occupation consisted in
drinking beer. On one occasion he gave so much to
little Ilia that the boy conceived a lifelong distaste
for beer. Ilia took advantage of his tutors' indiffer-
ence to devote himself to his favourite study of
natural history. His vocation was so obvious that it
could not be mistaken. It seems a strange thing
that a passion for science should have developed in
so inappropriate an environment. Evidently the
first impulse was given by Hodounof, but, if his
influence stimulated this passion, it cannot have
created it. This vocation probably had a deeper
source, and in order to discover it we should perhaps
look back into the antecedents of the Metchnikoff
Ancestors of the MetchnikoS family The Great Spatar Leo
THE Metchnikoff family made no show of family
pride ; one old aunt, however, was extremely proud
of one of their ancestors, the Great "Spatar" (sword-
bearer). The following is the account given of this
ancestor by E. Picot, after a Moldavian chronicle. 1
Few men led such an adventurous lif e or made themselves
glorious through such varied gifts as did Nicholas Spatar
His name is connected with the history of Moldavian, Greek,
Russian, and Chinese literature. His origin, his talents, his
crime, the mutilation he suffered, his audacious journey across
the whole of Asia to reach Pekin, the valuable information
which he gathered during his embassy at the Court of the
" Son of Heaven," everything conspires to excite curiosity
Spatar was born in Moldavia in 1625. While yet
very young he went to Constantinople, where he
studied theology, philosophy, history ancient and
modern, Greek, Latin, Slavonic and Turkish. He
afterwards went to Italy to study natural science and
mathematics. On his return to Moldavia he soon
became known for his erudition, acquired great
1 Chronicle of John Necidua.
24 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
influence, and became much appreciated at Court.
Owing to clever political intrigues he preserved the
simultaneous favour of several enemy princes, one
of whom, Stepanita, covered him with benefits and
honours. Nevertheless, Spatar wrote to Constantine
Bassarab, in Poland, advising him to come and to
overthrow Stepanita 's throne. He sent his letter
inside a hollow cane ; Constantine, however, did not
wish to launch himself into such an adventure, and
indignantly sent the hollow cane and the letter to
Stepanita himself. At first the prince, naturally
angry, thought of having Spatar executed ; he spared
his life for the sake of his talents, but condemned him
to have the tip of his nose cut off. Spatar went to
Germany, where, says the naive chronicler, a doctor
made his nose grow again. He came back to Mol-
davia for a short time and then went to Russia.
Thanks to his knowledge of languages, he was made
an interpreter at the Court of the Tsar Alexis
Michailovitch, and was the first tutor of his son
Peter the Great, whom he taught to read and to
In 1674 the Tsar Alexis Michailovitch entrusted
Spatar with a mission in China, where he was to open
negotiations with a view to commercial and political
relations between Russia and China. In the course
of his journey Spatar carefully collected all possible
information concerning the countries he traversed.
He thus gathered much interesting geographical
knowledge and highly important data concerning the
commercial value of Asiatic rivers, and specially the
At Pekin, Spatar rapidly learnt the Chinese lan-
guage, occupied for three years the post of ambassador
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 25
in China, and returned to Russia bringing back most
valuable information and many rich presents given
him by the Emperor of China.
All this had excited the jealousy of the Muscovite
courtiers ; they took advantage of the coincidence
between the death of the Tsar and Spatar's return to
deprive him of his treasures and to have him exiled
to Siberia. But, when Peter the Great ascended the
throne, Spatar succeeded in making a letter reach him
relating his misfortunes, and the Tsar recalled him,
gave him back his property, and showered honours
upon him. Spatar again became interpreter of the
Embassy ; Peter consulted him in all Far-Eastern
questions, and gave him confidential documents to
translate into foreign languages.
Spatar's literary activity was vast and varied.
He translated the Bible from the Greek into Rouman-
ian ; he wrote a chronicle on the origin of Roumania,
articles on theology, a Greco-Latin-Russian dictionary,
and a work entitled Arithmetic, in which he discussed,
by means of numbers and figures, questions of Theo-
logy, Philosophy, and Ethics. He dealt in his writings
with Art, Archaeology, and History; described his
Siberian travels, China and the Amour river, and made
numerous translations of diplomatic documents. His
erudition was such that his contemporaries appealed
to his knowledge as they would have consulted an
He had married a Muscovite and had several sons
and grandsons. Three of his nephews came from
Moldavia to join him and entered the Russian army.
He died in 1714 at the age of 80. Such is the history
of the " Great Spatar."
The following notice is to be found in Brockhaus
26 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
and Effrone's Encyclopaedia : " The Metchnikoffs are
a noble family, descended from a Moldavian Boyar,
the Spatar (sword-bearer) Joury Stepanovitch, 1 who
came to Russia with Prince Cant emir. Peter the
Great gave this Boyar large land estates. His son
took the name of Metchnikoff (Russian translation
The following generations included military men
chiefly, one sailor, one mining engineer, one senator,
but no scientific men.
On the mother's side, Elie Metchnikoff had no
ancestor as remarkable or as romantic as the great
Spatar. Yet his grandfather, Leo Nevahovitch, was
a very intelligent and highly cultivated man. He had
been Farmer-General for tobacco in Poland. A Jew
by race, he took to heart the persecutions directed
against his co-religionists and defended them in
literary newspaper articles. Nevertheless he accepted
indirect advice from Alexander I. and let himself be
baptized. He adopted the Lutheran religion and his
children were brought up in it.
At the beginning of the Polish Revolution in 1830,
Nevahovitch was warned that his house was about
to be sacked ; the warning reached him as he was
peacefully enjoying a theatrical performance. He
hurried to prepare for departure and left Warsaw
with his family for Petersburg, where he lived on his
income. Having given up business, he took up literary
work and translated German philosophical works,
made friends in the literary world, and knew Pushkin
and Kriloff. His children, Emilia Lvovna amongst
others, inherited his intellectual gifts. One of his
sons was a remarkable caricaturist and edited a cari-
1 This Boyar was no doubt a nephew of the Great Spatar.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 27
cature newspaper which was very well known at the
time. The Nevahovitch family produced no men of
science. Metchnikofi himself considered that he had
inherited his mother's disposition and turn of mind.
In any case, his ancestors on both sides included
talented individuals, from whom he may have
inherited his gifts and his innate taste for science.
The Kharkofi Lycee Bogomoloff and Socialism Atheism Natural
History studies Private lodgings Private lessons in histology
from Professor Tschelkoff A borrowed microscope First article
Italian Opera The gold medal.
IN 1856 Dmitri Ivanovitch took the boys to Kharkoff
in order to make them enter the Lycee. They passed
their entrance examination quite satisfactorily ; Kolia
was admitted into the fifth class and Ilia into the one
below it. They were day boarders and lived in the
house of one of their former tutors.
This was at a time when the new and liberal reign
of Alexander II. was giving birth to many hopes ;
the Lycees preserved but insignificant traces of the
hard regime of Nicholas I. Previous narrow and
doctrinal teaching was giving way to a current of
realistic and rational ideas, physical and natural
science had become the vogue, and professors were
trying to come into touch with their pupils and to
influence their intellectual development. The boys
on their side were founding mutual instruction clubs,
attending popular Sunday lectures, interesting them-
selves in social questions in fact the revolutionary
movement was beginning to strike root. Life in
general was intense, aspirations exalted, and hopes
During his first school year Elie worked assidu-
ously in all branches of the curriculum, and his
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 29
name soon appeared on the honours list. The
Eussian language teacher became his friend, and
greatly contributed to his development by choosing
for him books of general knowledge. Under this
direction Elie read, among other things, Buckle's
History of Civilisation, which had at that time a very
great influence on the young Russian mind. Accord-
ing to the author's principal thesis, the progress of
humanity depended chiefly upon that of positive
science ; this idea sunk deeply into the boy's mind and
confirmed his scientific aspirations.
When he reached the fifth class he formed a
friendship with one of his school-fellows, Bogomoloff,
who had great influence over Elie's ulterior develop-
ment ; he was the son of a colour manufacturer, and
his elder brothers were studying chemistry at the
Kharkofi University with a view to applying it to
their industry. They had travelled abroad and had
brought back novel ideas and books forbidden by the
Russian censorship ; they influenced their young
brother, who in his turn initiated Elie. It was thus
that the latter became acquainted with materialistic
ideas and social theories ; he read the Popular Star,
the Bell of Herzin, and other publications prohibited in
Russia. Little by little he lost the faith which he had
held when under his mother's influence. Atheism, how-
ever, was to him more interesting than disappointing ;
it incited in him a state of general criticism. Ardently
passionate in this as in all things, he preached atheism
to others and received the nickname of " God is not."
The course of teaching at the Lycee did not escape his
criticism ; when he had reached the fourth class he
omitted those exercises which seemed to him devoid
of interest. On the other hand, he plunged with
30 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
passion into the study of natural science, botany,
He had ceased to be a model student, but his
scientific aspirations became stronger from day to
In order to cultivate foreign languages, the two
brothers had been placed in a boarding-house where
morals were strict and patriarchal, the food bad, and
the director's sermons long and tedious. None of
these things suited Elie. This regime, with the addi-
tion of dancing lessons, inspired him with the deepest
aversion ; he resolved to obtain from his parents per-
mission to take furnished rooms for himself and his
In spite of the current of political exaltation which
was then universal in Russia, Elie was too deeply
immersed in his studies to be carried away in that
direction. He did at one time attend popular
lectures and the political gatherings of the students,
but he felt that science was his real vocation. He
was so early and so completely absorbed by it that
he was not interested in the great movement for
the emancipation of the serfs. It is true that, at
Panassovka, the question was not acute as elsewhere,
the serfs being quite happy ; however, the fact remains
that it was his passion for science which kept him,
in spite of his exalted ideas and ardent soul, apart
from the noble movement for liberation.
In the third class he made friends with a group
of students who were devoted to science and to intel-
lectual culture. Elie, owing to his ardour and
vivacity, played the part of a ferment in that little
circle, each member of which was to make a special
study of certain scientific branches in order that they
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 31
might together edit a new encyclopaedia of human
knowledge. He studied German so as to read in
the original the classical materialistic writers, Vogt,
Feuerbach, Buchner, Moleschott, etc. The Lycee
lectures were relegated to the background. Never-
theless, owing to his great facility of assimilation,
he was successful in every branch. Plans for his
ulterior activities were soon definitely fixed.
At that time of intense intellectual effervescence
in Russia, libraries were invaded by a number of
translations of works on natural science. Elie absorbed-
them with avidity, and read amongst others a Russian
translation of Bronn's book on the Classes and Orders
of the Animal Kingdom. He saw for the first time in
the plates of that work pictures of micro-organisms,
amoebae, Infusoria, Rhizopoda, etc. That world of
lower beings impressed him so strongly that he resolved
from that moment to devote himself to the study of
them, that is, to the study of the primitive mani-
festations of life in its simplest forms.
He was then fifteen years old. The two brothers
now obtained from their parents permission to live
in furnished rooms, an independent arrangement
which allowed each of them to satisfy his individual
tastes. Apart from the Lycee, Kolia spent his time
in playing cards and billiards and in other amuse-
ments, whilst Elie worked with ardour, his only
recreations being music and debates on abstract
subjects. When he entered the second class he had
become completely specialised. In order to tackle
serious scientific studies, he tried to come into touch
with one of the University professors. The University
of Kharkoff was still making use of ancient methods ;
teaching was given by means of manuals, with prac-
32 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
tical application ; but Elie, who did not know that,
dreamt of finding in laboratories assistance and means
of, at least, undertaking personal scientific work. He
attended a lecture on comparative anatomy, and, in
order not to appear too young, he wore his ordinary
clothes instead of the Lycee uniform. After the lecture
was over, he shyly approached the professor and
begged to be allowed to study protoplasm under his
direction. The professor received him coldly, and
told him in a pedantic tone that he was in too much
of a hurry, and that he should first of all finish his
course at the Lycee and then get admitted into the
It was a disappointment for the eager boy ; how-
ever, he did not lose heart but continued to attend
divers University lectures, clinging to the hope that
another professor might be more sympathetic. He
was pleased with the lectures of a young physio-
logist, Tschelkofi by name, and decided to make
another attempt. This time he was successful. The
professor received him kindly and consented to give
him private lessons in histology. Then, fired with a
passionate desire to produce something personal in
medical science, and attracted by Virchow's cellular
theory, he dreamt that he might create a general
theory of his own in medicine. In order to increase
his scientific knowledge, he undertook with his friend
Zalensky the translation of Grove's work, The Unity
of Physical Forces. The professor of chemistry and
natural history willingly encouraged the two boys
in this work, to which they gave up the whole of the
school year. Elie wasted no opportunity of learning ;
during those lectures which did not interest him he
used to read scientific books. One day that he was
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 33
doing so during catechism he did not notice that the
priest, wishing to know what he was reading, had
come up to him. The latter, however, was greatly im-
pressed by the title of Radlkoffer's learned work on
The Crystals of Proteic Substances ; he returned the
book without a word and never interfered with him
Through the assistance of some medical students,
Elie obtained the loan of a microscope ; he studied
Infusoria and imagined that he had made divers
discoveries ; he hastened to write an article, and sent
it to the only scientific Russian paper then in existence,
the Bulletin of the Moscow Society of Naturalists. To
his great joy his MS. was accepted, but before long
the young scientist perceived that his deductions were
erroneous, for he had mistaken phenomena of degener-
escence for phenomena of development. He was able
to stop the publication of this article, the first he ever
wrote, and it never appeared.
Thanks to Tschelkoff, who lent him a microscope
for the duration of the holidays, he was able to study
the local fauna of inferior animals. At the beginning
of his last year at the Lycee, he read a text-book of
geology by a Kharkofi professor and, with juvenile
assurance, wrote a critical analysis of it. Inserted in
the Journal de Moscou, this was Elie's first publica-
tion ; he was then sixteen years old. Encouraged
by this success, he sent several other criticisms, but
they were not accepted.
The last examinations were coming near : Elie
wished to obtain the gold medal, not only out of pride,
but in order to prove to his parents that he deserved
their assistance in order to go abroad to continue his
studies. He therefore provisionally suspended his
34 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
favourite pursuits and resumed the study of the long-
neglected school programme. The last examinations
took place in the spring of 1862. It happened to be
the Italian Opera season and Elie could not resist the
temptations offered him by music. In order to make
up the time, he often had to work the whole night
long at the cost of severe fatigue.
In spite of this complication, he passed his exam-
inations brilliantly and obtained the gold medal.
He now wished for nothing but to devote himself to
An early love A schoolfellow's sister A pretty sister-in-law.
IN spite of his precocious vocation, Elie was in no
wise indifferent to his surroundings. His mind was
sensitive and impressionable and his affections deep
and tender, especially where his mother was con-
cerned. He never undertook anything without con-
sulting her, a sweet habit which he preserved even in
It was already at the age of six that he received
his first love impression : a lady came on a visit to
Panassovka with her little girl of eight, a lovely curly-
headed child, sweet and graceful, a living floweret.
Ilia could not admire her enough, and was most lavish
in his attentions, offering her flowers and fruit, in-
venting games to amuse her and trying by every
means to make himself agreeable to her. The presence
of this charming little girl caused him great joy and
tender emotion ; he wished that she might never go
away. . . . But the visit soon ended, and this first
idyll was short-lived ; new impressions were not long
in replacing it. Nevertheless the picture of the
pretty child was so deeply impressed in his mind that
he never forgot her.
The second time he fell in love was when he was
already at the Lycee ; one of his schoolfellows had a
very pretty sister whom Elie used to meet on half-
36 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
holidays. He admired her from afar, and tried to
contrive opportunities of meeting her ; she was the
object of his dreams for the whole of one term.
But he was presently to be seized by a more serious
feeling. When he was in the third class at the Lycee
he came as usual to Panassovka for the summer
holidays and found there a new inmate, his elder
brother's young wife. Soon, to his own astonish-
ment, he found that the image of his last winter's
passion was being effaced by that of his sister-in-law.
She, a pretty, fashionable girl, was bored with country
life ; she criticised the simple habits at Panassovka
which formed a sharp contrast with her tastes ; she
soon became very unpopular and, feeling lonely and
bored, tried to attract her young brother-in-law.
Elie, at first a willing comrade, soon found himself
harbouring a more tender feeling for his sister-in-law ;
she complained to him of the family's hostility,
declared herself misunderstood, and easily excited
the pity and sympathy of the sensitive boy. He
became her ardent defender and went so far as to
fight her battles, even with his mother, whom he
reproached with fancied injustice. For nearly four
years he remained under his sister-in-law's sentimental
influence. He afterwards freed himself completely
from it, but the fact remains that she was the first
woman who inspired real sentiment in his youthful
Journey to Germany Leipzig Wiirzburg A hasty return.
DURING his later years at the Lycee, Elie had attended
several courses at the Kharkofi University and had
realised the inadequacy of the teaching and the im-
possibility of any personal research work in the
laboratories. His greatest desire, therefore, was to
go abroad to study. At that time, the German
universities, being nearer, chiefly attracted Russian
students. Their laboratories were widely opened to
foreigners, and lectures were being given by a pleiad
of celebrated professors.
In order to attain his object, Elie took care to
secure his mother's support. It was not very dim-
cult, for she believed in her son's scientific future and
was anxious to help him ; she succeeded in convincing
his father and, by means of serious sacrifices, the
necessary sum was procured. Elie, who was espe-
cially interested in the study of protoplasm, chose
the University of Wurzburg, where the celebrated
zoologist Kolliker was lecturing. Thinking that in
Germany the term began in September, as in Russia,
he hastened to depart. The journey at that time was
long and complicated ; yet, in spite of much fatigue,
Elie only stopped one day in Berlin and hurried to
Leipzig, the centre of the book trade, in order to
procure the necessary books. He reached Leipzig in
38 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
the evening and was greatly embarrassed, not knowing
where to find a lodging. A young German in the
station offered him a room in his own family's house
and took him there. The next morning, very early,
Elie ran out to buy his books and, in his haste, forgot
to note the number of the house and the name of
the street ; it was with the utmost difficulty that he
found the place again. Much disturbed by this mis-
adventure, he hastened to start for Wiirzburg and,
on arriving there, met with a great disappointment ;
all the professors were absent, this being the middle
of the holidays, and the lectures were not to begin for
six weeks. The poor boy, thus alone for the first time
among strangers, felt completely lost. He was given
the address of some Eussian students and he hastily
sought them out, full of joy and hope, only to be
received coldly and distrustfully by his compatriots.
After this discouraging reception, he sadly proceeded
to look for a room, and having found one in the house
of a disagreeable old couple, he brought his bag there.
But, as he began to unpack it, he was seized with a
feeling of such utter despair that he hastily put his
luggage together again and announced to his elderly
hosts that he was going. Surprised and indignant, they
abused him so brutally that his distress only increased ;
he rushed to the station, took the first train, and
returned to Panassovka without a stop. This hurried
return disconcerted his family, but, seeing the state
he was in, nobody reproached him. His mother had
felt much anxiety on his account, and was in fact not
sorry to keep him a little longer under her wing.
Thus, in dismal failure, ended that first journey
abroad, so ardently desired. The result might have
been very different if Elie had reached Wiirzburg at
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 39
the right moment, or if the Russian students had been
more friendly. Too young and too impressionable to
bear absolute solitude, he could only have been saved
by his favourite studies or by a friendly environment.
His plans and fair dreams had been overthrown by a
series of simple mishaps.
Kharkoff University Physiology The Vorticella Controversy with
Kiihne The Origin of Species The Gasterotricha University
THERE was now no choice and he had to resign him-
self to the Kharkoff University. There is not much to
relate about this period, which was but a fugitive
episode in the course of Elie Metchnikoff, for the
" Alma Mater " did not have upon him either the
influence or the prestige which it generally exerts upon
Whilst the stream of new ideas had already reached
the Lycee, the University of Kharkoff had remained
extremely conservative ; this was owing to the fact
that the Lycee professors were young men, whilst those
of the University were elderly and old-fashioned.
Officials rather than scientists, they were content with
ancient methods, and lectured without practical work,
from obsolete and ill-chosen manuals. A few of them
drank, others neglected their work. In the Medical
and Natural Science Faculties, only two agreges were
newly appointed, Tschelkoff, the physiologist we have
already mentioned, and a chemist named Beketoff.
These two were indeed scientists and master-minds,
and it was only under their direction that any one
did any serious work ; the other lectures were pure
formalities. Elie wished to go in for medical studies
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 41
but his mother dissuaded him. " You are too sensi-
tive," she said, " you could not bear the constant
sight of human suffering." At the same time,
Tschelkoff suggested the Natural Science Faculty as
being more appropriate to purely scientific activity.
Elie accepted his opinion and began to study physio-
logy under his direction. His great desire was to
embark at once on personal research, and his teacher
advised him to study the mobile stalk of a ciliated
Infusorian, the Vorticella. The question was to deter-
mine whether this stalk presented any analogy with
muscular tissue and whether it offered the same
reactions. Elie set to work with ardour and found
that the stalk of the Vorticella had no muscular
character. His memoir on the subject appeared in
1863 in Muller's Archives. It provoked a severe, even
brutal, answer from the celebrated physiologist Kuhne
which deeply grieved the young scientist and, stimu-
lating his energy still further, incited him to repeat
his experiments. He obtained the same results as
the first time, and answered Kuhne in a somewhat
bitter manner, the latter's tone having stirred his
Meanwhile, Elie was yearning for independent and
more general study. During his unsuccessful journey,
he had acquired in Leipzig many recently published
scientific books, and, among them, Darwin's Origin of
Species. The theory of evolution deeply struck the
boy's mind and his thoughts immediately turned in
that direction. He said to himself that isolated forms
which had found no place in definite animal or
vegetable orders might perhaps serve as a bond be-
tween those orders and elucidate their genetic rela-
tionships. This leading idea made him choose for
42 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
his researches some very singular fresh- water crea-
tures, partly like Rotifera and partly like certain
worms of the Nematode group. He succeeded in
establishing a new intermediate order which he named
" Gastrotricha," and which was straightway accepted.
The whole of his first year at the University was
given up to those special studies. As he was fully
aware that the teaching of the University did not
answer to his aspirations, he resolved to remain there
as short a time as possible, and to get through the course
of studies in two years instead of the four which were
usual. In order to succeed in doing so, he provision-
ally gave up his scientific researches, attended the
lectures as a free auditor, and spent the whole of the
second year in cramming for the " candidate " exam-
ination, which answers to a Licentiate in Western
universities. It happened again this time that the
examinations coincided with the Opera season, but,
though he indulged in his passion for music, he
succeeded, by dint of a supreme effort, in passing them
Having gone through the University at such an
accelerated pace, he did not come into contact with
other students, who, themselves chiefly preoccupied
with politics, took little interest in a youth so ex-
clusively absorbed in science. He therefore formed
none of those attractive juvenile friendships which
he had enjoyed at the Lycee. His hasty University
studies necessarily left lacunae in his general know-
ledge, a fact which he afterwards keenly deplored.
With the exception of Tschelkoff, his teachers
had had no decisive influence on his career, and his
two years at the University formed but a colourless
episode in his life.
Heligoland Giessen Congress Leuckart Visit to Leo Metchnikoff
at Geneva Socialist gatherings Metchnikoff' s discovery appro-
priated by Leuckart Naples Kovalevsky Comparative em-
bryology Embryonic layers Bakounine and Setchenoff Cholera
at Naples Gottingen Anatomical studies Munich ; von Sieboldt
Music Return to Naples Intracellular digestion.
ELIE still had his Licentiate thesis to prepare. In
order to do so, he decided to spend two months in
the island of Heligoland, of which the flora and fauna
were very attractive to naturalists. In spite of his
previous failure, his parents made no objection to his
departure ; they gave him the little money they could
spare and Elie started, in 1864.
As soon as he arrived in Heligoland he became
absorbed in his work. He proceeded with his idea of
bringing light upon the genealogy of organisms through
the study of isolated forms outside definite groups. 1
His ardour in his work attracted the attention of
several German scientists, one of whom introduced
him to the celebrated botanist Cohn, who soon became
interested in him. During the walks which they took
together, they held scientific conversations full of
interest for the youth. Cohn advised him to work
under the celebrated zoologist Leuckart. Elie received
this counsel with enthusiasm, but there was a great
difficulty, which was the lack of money to prolong
1 He made researches on a very singular annulate worm, the Fabricia.
44 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
his stay abroad. He did not wish to ask for more
from his parents and decided on the following plan,
which he expounded in the following letter to his
mother, the constant confidante of all his aspirations :
HELIGOLAND, Aug. 12, 1864.
DEAR MAMMA, ... I am thinking of staying here another
month, after which I shall go (at least that is my desire) for ten
days toGiessen, where there will be a General Congress of natural-
ists and physicians from the whole of Europe. This Congress
tempts me so much that I want to do my utmost to attend it.
Besides all the scientific benefit that I shall reap from
conversations with scientists, I can also study Professor
Leuckart's rich collections. This would complete the studies
which I am successfully pursuing at the seaside.
In order to realise my ardent wish to profit by such treasures,
I must remain three weeks longer at Heligoland, travel to
Giessen and live there for ten days ; all that out of the money
which was to keep me here until the 26 Aug. only. . . .
Therefore, instead of living in the hotel, I have taken a room
at a fisherman's, for half the price ; instead of a dinner and
coffee I eat what I can get and I only spend 90 centimes a
day for my food. (Food is dear, as all the provisions come
from Hamburg and from England.) Instead of changing my
linen two or three times a week, I only do so once or twice,
which allows me to spend less on laundry.
The money thus economised, together with the sum which
I had put aside for my first installation at Petersburg, con-
stitutes a sufficient capital to provide the following joys and
advantages : 1, I shall stay three weeks longer at the seaside,
which will allow me to get on with my researches and to
increase my collections ; 2, I shall attend the Congress ; 3,
I shall be able to study Leuckart's collections and take advan-
tage of his books and counsel.
I beseech you not to look upon this description of my
present life as a complaint or a murmur ; on the contrary I
am delighted to procure so many advantages at so small a
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 45
cost ; I am happy, too, to be able to assure you in all conscience
that I am not wasting the money that you have found for me
with so much care and affection. I only wish I could find
myself oftener in the same conditions.
Please also believe that my health is in no way suffering
from my work. I give you my word that until now I have not
had a single headache.
Moreover, I do not think work is at all detrimental to
health ; I see here several German scientists who could fell
an ox with their fist ! Altogether I beseech you not to be
anxious on my account ; you have quite enough painful pre-
occupations without that, and I am in such excellent circum-
stances that there really is nothing to worry about. I kiss
your hands many times.
P.S. Write to me oftener. Every word from you is so
precious to me !
He did not tell his mother that he never had
enough to eat. Neither did he wish Cohn and his
other acquaintances at Heligoland to notice it, and
he carefully concealed his style of living.
He went to Giessen for the opening of the Natural-
ists' Congress and read with success two papers
dealing with his researches at Heligoland. Engel-
mann (who was to become well known as a physio-
logist) and he were the youngest members of the
Congress, and their extreme youth attracted general
attention. Elie at last made Leuckart's acquaint-
ance ; he was charmed by him and definitely decided
to begin at once to work under his direction, and, as
his stay abroad had thus to be prolonged, he asked
and obtained a bursa from the Russian Ministry of
The results of his researches at Heligoland had
46 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
led him to suppose that the Nematodes (of the worm
type) formed an independent group ; he now pro-
posed to settle that question. Leuckart allowed him
to work in his laboratory during his absence for the
holidays ; Elie immediately set to work and dis-
covered a very curious and quite novel case of alter-
nation of generations; hermaphrodite and parasitic
Nematodes giving birth to a free bisexual generation.
Delighted with his discovery, he hastened to com-
municate it to Leuckart, who was incredulous at first
but had to give way to evidence when Elie showed
him all the intermediary stages. Still the German
scientist was obviously annoyed that this discovery
should have been made in his absence and inde-
pendently from him. He proposed to the young
man that they should continue researches in colla-
boration and publish a joint memoir. Elie accepted
joyfully. In his ardour he worked too much, and
fatigued his eyesight so that he was forced to limit
his microscopical researches to a few hours a day, and
Leuckart advised him to take a rest.
It happened that Elie's brother Leo had just settled
in Geneva and invited him to stay with him ; Elie
started to join him. The brothers had not met for a
long time. Leo had been travelling and had resided
in many different places. He was an extraordinarily
gifted man, impulsive, brilliant, and artistic, but rest-
less and incapable of adhering to a steady course of
action ; he scattered his activities and did not there-
fore produce all that his rich nature was capable of.
He had a remarkable gift for languages ; he knew not
only a number of European languages but also several
Oriental languages, having been in the East, where he
had occupied a post of agent in navigation and com-
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 47
merce. He afterwards lived in Italy, took an active
part in the Garibaldi movement and was wounded.
A clever painter, he also had real literary talent ;
handsome, witty, agreeable, he was a most attractive
personality. Elie had great affection for him.
He found him surrounded with young men and
studying a map. They were discussing the acquisi-
tion of a piece of ground in Italy in order to found
a socialistic community, and Leo, who knew the
country, was to choose the locality. Elie was at once
made acquainted with the political questions of the
day ; the young scientist was unfavourably impressed,
for the whole reduced itself to party questions and
dogmatic discussions founded on hollow grounds.
Accustomed as he already was to positive scientific
methods, vague and arbitrary theories could not
On the other hand, he was deeply impressed by
the personality of the celebrated socialistic Russian
writer, Herzen, who resided in Geneva at that time.
The young revolutionaries considered him as too
literary and too much of a theoretician ; they them-
selves yearned for a direct-action policy. Leo Metch-
nikoff, however, admired him fervently. Meetings
often took place in Herzen's rooms ; he used to read
to his guests with wonderful effect his yet unpublished
manuscript Passe et pensees. A great and powerful
figure, the superiority of his intelligence was almost
crushing, while his sparkling wit and the nobility of
his whole being endowed him with an incomparable
and irresistible personal charm. Metchnikoff often
said that no man had left a deeper impression on his
life. As a politician, however, he had not the same
prestige in his sight.
48 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
This sojourn in a revolutionary centre interested
him much, but had the result of confirming his con-
viction that science was immeasurably superior to
politics, and he congratulated himself on the path he
had chosen. After he had rested, he started to return
to Griessen and stopped at Heidelberg, a centre for
Russian students who gathered around Helmholtz,
Virchow, and Bunsen. He hurried to the library in
order to see scientific periodicals ; one of the first that
came under his eyes was a number of the Gottingen
News, containing a memoir by Leuckart on the Nema-
todes which they had studied together ; Leuckart
described, in his own name, their common researches
and also those personal to the young man, whom he
only mentioned incidentally. Elie was shocked and
indignant. On his return to Giessen he tried to obtain
an explanation from Leuckart but in vain ; the latter
eluded his questions and gave him no answer. 1
In his despair, the youth confided in Glaus, a pro-
fessor of zoology whose acquaintance he had made
at the Congress, who told him that Leuckart was in
the habit of such dealings, and urged Elie, as an inde-
pendent stranger, to reveal the fact. He pressed this
with so much insistence that Elie ended in following
his advice ; he sent an article stating the case to
Dubois-Reymond's journal. He then departed from
Giessen without taking leave of Leuckart.
Having had a bursa of 1600 roubles a year granted
him for two years by the Russian Ministry of Public
Instruction, he was able to undertake a journey to
the shores of the Mediterranean in order to pursue
1 All this episode was described by Metchnikoff in 1866 in a separate
publication with great restraint and in a very moderate tone.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 49
He had heard of a very talented young zoologist,
Alexander Kovalevsky, who also knew him by hearsay
and had written him a letter full of enthusiasm con-
cerning the rich Mediterranean fauna and the facilities
for work in Italy. He therefore went to Naples on
leaving Giessen. Though the journey in itself had
but a secondary attraction for him, he had expected
to receive a strong impression ; but his imagination
had painted such grandiose pictures of the country
that he had to cross, that the reality disappointed
him, and Italy, like Switzerland on a former occasion,
fell very far short of his expectations. He stopped
at Florence, which made but a poor impression
on him. Museums fatigued him, for he saw a great
deal too many works of art all at once without
any previous preparation. Architecture and the
plastic arts in general did not take any hold of him.
During his rapid journey he only saw the country
quite superficially and had no time to become im-
pregnated with its beauty. He therefore hastened
towards Naples, where his work and Kovalevsky
attracted him far more.
He found in Kovalevsky a young man with shy
but cordial manners and the clear sweet eyes of a
pure child, obviously an idealist. He had for science
an absolute cult, the sacred fire of the worshipper ;
no sacrifice was too great, no difficulty too repellent
for his ardour. On a closer acquaintance, the small,
timid young man proved to be a hard fighter where
science was concerned. The two young men formed
an excellent impression of each other, and a friendship
was started between them which was to last a life-
time. Though very different from each other, they
met on common ground, a passion for science. They
50 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
worked with the greatest energy, going together on
zoological excursions, exchanging their ideas, dis-
cussing their aspirations ; a similarity of tastes lent
great attraction to their friendship.
At Giessen, Elie had read Fritz Miiller's For
Darwin, a book which had a decisive influence on the
future direction of his researches. Fritz Miiller, in his
embryological works on certain crustaceans, had been
the first to confirm in a concrete manner Darwin's
evolutionist theories ; he had thus demonstrated that
it was chiefly in embryology that precious indications
were to be found concerning the genealogy of organ-
isms. 1 Under the influence of this work, Elie, who
until now had limited himself to introductory re-
searches, resolved to concentrate all his efforts on the
comparative embryology of animals. He started to
work in that direction, and his researches confirmed
him more and more in the opinion that the key of
animal evolution and genealogy was to be sought for
in the most primitive stages, in those simple phases
of development where no secondary element has yet
been introduced from external conditions. In those
primordial stages, essential characters, common to
all, reveal the analogy and connections between
animals from different groups.
Every animal begins by being unicellular, for the
egg-cell, the reproducing cell, common to all, corre-
sponds to a unicellular being. It is only after fecunda-
tion, when it has become an ovum, that this first
cell evolves by dividing itself into consecutive
segments, each of which is a new cell. This pheno-
menon is analogous with the multiplication of uni-
1 In later years Metchnikoff often dwelt on the fact that Fritz Miiller
was not fully appreciated and that it was he who had most efficaciously
contributed to the confirmation of Darwinian theories.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 51
cellular beings through division ; only, those segments
of the ovum do not separate but constitute a whole
under the aspect of a hollow sphere, called a blastula,
which is the first manifestation of a multicellular
being. This blastula is formed of superposed layers,
each of which gives birth to specialised organs in the
embryo. The outside layer, or ectoderm, produces
teguments and the nervous system ; the internal layer,
or endoderm, gives birth to endothelial cells, the digestive
and internal organs ; between those two layers comes
a third, intermediary layer, the mesoderm, from which
the skeleton is developed and also the muscle and
The evolution of these layers in Vertebrates was
well known, but very little so in Invertebrates, though
it is only through the development of inferior forms
that the origin and general evolution of living beings
can be elucidated. That is why, during many years,
the principal theme of MetchnikofTs researches was
the comparative study of the embryonic layers of
inferior animals and the ulterior fate of their con-
stituting elements. By following this train of thought,
he was able to demonstrate that the development of
lower animals takes place on the same plan and
follows the same laws as that of higher animals ;
thus, that there is a real communion between all
living beings, which is the concrete confirmation of
the theory of evolution.
By their work, Kovalevsky and Metchnikoff con-
tributed to the foundation of Comparative Embryo-
logy. The comparative study of cells produced from
the divers embryonic layers, and observations on the
ulterior development of the functions of those cells,
gradually led Metchnikoff to his theory of phagocytes
52 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
and to pathological biology. An uninterrupted thread
can be followed right through his life-work, from the
beginning until the end.
In spite of his absorbing work he took great
interest in his surroundings, and during this first stay
in Italy he became acquainted with two interesting
personalities, Bakounine the anarchist and the cele-
brated physiologist Setchenoff. Both resided at
Sorrento. Kovalevsky and Metchnikoff, who greatly
desired to know them, decided to call on them, after
Bakounine, a giant with a leonine head and a
thick mane of grey hair, struck them as being a fiery
enthusiast but an intolerant sectarian, easily roused ;
for instance, any small and unimportant local meeting
was enough for him to predict an imminent revolution
in Russia. His theories were epitomised in these
words, " We must not leave stone upon stone " ; but
when asked what should be built up on those ruins
he could only say, " We shall see later." Elie looked
upon him as a force powerful by its fire and vitality,
but thought his mind neither judicial nor profound.
Very different was the impression produced on
him by Setchenoff. He carried great weight through
the depth of his intelligence, his persuasive eloquence
and general thoroughness. He was of a Mongol type
and his features were plain, but his splendid eyes,
deep and intelligent, shrewd and yet kindly, illumined
his face with an unforgettable inward beauty. When
Elie went to see him, it was with the uneasy feeling
that his own knowledge of chemistry and physics was
very restricted, having been very superficially acquired
during his rapid passage through the University.
In spite of this cause for bashfulness, a mental com-
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 53
pact and exchange of ideas was immediately estab-
lished between the two, and a sympathy was born
between them which developed into a lifelong friend-
ship. Elie expatiated upon his plans for the study of
the embryology of inferior animals from the evolution
point of view, and received from the older scientist
much encouragement, for which he never ceased to
He worked a great deal during this first stay at
Naples, in spite of periods of great fatigue. As a
relaxation, he plunged into philosophical reading.
After Kovalevsky's departure, he joined Bakounine's
circle, the members of which took their meals in a
restaurant which rejoiced in the sonorous name of
Trattoria della Harmonia. In the autumn of the year
1865, a cholera epidemic broke out in Naples. Every
one was nervous and depressed, and this general
depression was increased still more by some of the
customs of the country continuous lugubrious
church bells, funeral processions in which penitents
took part, carrying smoking torches and wearing
hoods over their heads with holes for their eyes, etc.
Elie, on whom the epidemic had made a great impres-
sion, was even more disturbed by the death of one of
the members of their little circle, a popular English-
woman, liked by everybody. She had no fear of
cholera and was bright and merry. But one day she
did not come to the Trattoria della Harmonia ; she had
been struck by the scourge and was dead the next day.
Elie was so struck by her death that his nerves,
already very tense, gave way and he left Naples, being,
moreover, worn out with overwork.
He started for Gottingen, for he wanted to begin the
study of Vertebrates under the direction of Professor
54 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
Keferstein. Keferstein straightway gave him a valu-
able lizard specimen to anatomise. Elie was not
good at technique, on account of his nervous tem-
perament ; he used occasionally to lose his patience
and his temper, to that point that he flung his material
across the room. It happened so on this occasion ;
having completely wasted the valuable lizard, he con-
ceived a still greater horror of technique and soon left
Professor Keferstein for Henle, the celebrated anatom-
ist. He worked with him for a short tune at the
histology of frogs' kidneys, a subject chosen by the
Professor. Soon the young man realised that he was
no longer capable of submitting to school discipline
and resumed his independent researches. When he
had to do with those problems which absorbed him
he was always able to conquer his aversion for tech-
nique and to do what was required. He studied the
embryology of the green-fly from the genealogical point
of view, and went to Munich for the summer term
in order to work with the celebrated zoologist von
Siebold, a typical and venerable old German scientist.
The latter was too old already to be troubled with
pupils, and Elie studied his insect embryology indepen-
dently ; however, he visited the old man assiduously,
and they had long scientific conversations. Their
relations were always extremely cordial, and they
even kept up a regular correspondence for many years.
During his stay in Germany, music was the young
man's only recreation. He did not play any instru-
ment ; his parents, discouraged by the failure of their
elder children, had not had him taught, and besides,
his precocious vocation would have left him no time.
Yet he certainly had a natural talent for music, which
he passionately loved. He could only whistle, but
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 55
with that feeble means succeeded in reproducing com-
plicated compositions. Having assiduously attended
excellent concerts, he had made himself thoroughly
acquainted with classical music, and Beethoven and
Mozart always remained his favourite composers.
His stay in Germany taught him to appreciate the
great capacity for work of the scientists of that
country ; he admired the organisation of their labora-
tories, allowing every force, great or small, to be
utilised and making useful collective work possible
in those complicated researches which demand the
collaboration of divers specialists. On the other hand,
he felt a great aversion for the manners and customs
of German students. Their corporations, duels, and
long sittings in beer-houses were distasteful to him ;
he could not understand how these coarse " Burschen "
could become transformed into cultivated intellec-
tuals and respectable scientists. People to whom he
expressed this wonder merely said, " Youth must
have its fling. ..." Moreover, scientists themselves
were not particularly courteous to each other. More
than anywhere else personal questions held a fore-
most place, and kindliness was rare between colleagues.
After staying some time in Munich, Elie returned
to Naples, war having broken out between Northern
and Southern Germany. This time, in order to spend
less on the journey, he took a steamer at Genoa, but
with fatal results, for a storm was raging ; he suffered
a great deal, and, when he reached Naples, violent fits
of giddiness made him incapable of doing any work at
all for some time. Cholera reappeared, and the land-
lady of the rooms he shared with Kovalevsky died of
it. Much depressed, the two started for Ischia, but
Elie soon realised with terror that he was not yet well
56 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
enough to work ; in order to recover quickly, he went
to Cava, a pretty little place, renowned for its salu-
There he met Bakounine again, and they saw a
good deal of each other in a friendly way. Bakou-
nine nicknamed him " Mamma " because of his almost
maternal attentions, a nickname which, for the same
reason, was given him later, quite independently, by
other intimates. Yet, though their relations were
cordial and even affectionate, there was not really
much in common between the two. Elie thought
Bakounine's ideas superficial, and disliked his sectarian
mentality ; they ultimately drifted apart.
His health having gradually recovered owing to the
rest, he returned to Naples in the autumn, after the
epidemic had abated, and at last resumed his work.
Whilst studying the history of the development of
Cephalopoda he found that they had embryonic
layers similar to those of Vertebrates ; this was the
first time that the fact was established. It was ex-
tremely important, for it constituted a concrete and
indisputable proof of the existence of a genetic
connection between inferior and superior animals.
Metchnikoff chose this subject for his thesis, and,
having completed his researches, he returned to
Russia in 1867.
By this time he had made great use of his three
years' stay abroad. Though he had not showed
himself a docile pupil, yet he had become initiated
into the organisation of scientific work in Germany ;
he had carried out independent researches and had
been able to choose with full knowledge the future
path of investigations which he was to pursue for
many years in the field of Comparative Embryology.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 57
Already the observations he had made had in
themselves a real importance. For instance, his
studies in divers specimens of the worm type, a type
which offers very heterogeneous forms, had permitted
him to establish links of continuity between certain
groups among them. Whilst studying those animals
at Giessen in 1865, he had discovered the capital fact
which proved to be the starting-point of all his future
work the intercellular digestion of an inferior worm,
a land planarian, the Geodesmus bilineatus. He had
compared this digestion with that of the superior
Infusoria and had seen in it one more proof of the
genetic connection between the type of the Protozoa
and that of worms.
He did not then realise the full bearing of this
observation, which really constituted the basis of his
future phagocyte theory ; this was only to appear
eighteen years later.
He had also made researches on numerous speci-
mens of insects and on the scorpion, establishing the
fact that they all had embryonic layers ; he concluded
that he was " entitled to extend the theory of em-
bryonic layers to Arthropoda."
Finally, he had discovered embryonic layers similar
to those of the Vertebrates in inferior Invertebrates,
the Cephalopoda (Sepiola). This established a link
of continuity between the higher and lower animals.
Petersburg Baer prize Return home Friendship with Cienkovsky
Odessa Naturalists' Congress at Petersburg Departure from
Odessa Zoological Lecturer's Chair at Petersburg Messina
Enforced rest Reggio Naples Controversy with Kovalevsky
Visit to the B. family Mile. F6dorovitch Educational questions
Difficulties of life hi Petersburg.
DURING his stay abroad, Metchnikoff had successfully
carried out several researches, and this allowed him
to apply for a post of docent at the new University of
Odessa, which he had chosen on account of its proxi-
mity with the sea and its marine fauna. Whilst
awaiting the result he went to Petersburg in order to
pass his thesis and to prepare himself to become a
professor. He received a pleasant welcome, for his
lively and sociable disposition had made him many
friends. The brothers Kovalevsky, with whom he was
already on friendly terms, offered him hospitality ;
he also made the acquaintance of Professor Beketoff,
and soon became a member of his family circle.
He was well received everywhere, for his scientific
precocity excited general interest. He was even
elected magister x by the Faculty, without having to
pass an examination, on account of the work he had
done. He and Kovalevsky halved Baer's first prize,
and they were invited and treated with the utmost
kindness by Baer himself. Metchnikoff had certainly
1 A degree preceding that of Doc.Sc.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 59
entered upon a successful phase ; his friends nick-
named him " the star." As soon as he was made a
magister, he received his appointment at the Odessa
University, and, the holidays drawing near, he was at
last able to return to his home. Needless to say how
joyfully and lovingly he was received by his family.
He spent two months with them, utilising his leisure in
preparing himself to teach.
In his hurry to arrive in Odessa in good time in
order to take his bearings before starting his lectures,
he went there much too soon and found nobody at
the University ; he then decided to go to the Crimea
for some preliminary studies on the fauna of the Black
Sea. Before long, he made the acquaintance of the
celebrated botanist Cienkovsky, who invited him to
stay in his villa. Though the scientist was already
46 years old and Elie only 22, they soon became fast
friends. Cienkovsky was a man of great European
culture ; passionately fond of science as he was, his
critical mind submitted everything to a close analysis.
He took great interest in young Metchnikoff and
showed him a marked predilection, but that did not
prevent him from criticising him severely. He re-
proached him with a lack of self-control, and undertook
the paternal task of civilising the impulsive, fiery,
sometimes even violent young man. He preached
to him tolerance towards the opinions of others, a
strict self-discipline, and the absolute necessity of
bowing to certain social conventions against which
Elie blindly rebelled. Cienkovsky acquired great
prestige in his young friend's eyes ; years later, even,
Metchnikofi took pleasure in quoting his axioms and
in trying to conform with them.
He worked with ardour during his stay in the
60 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
Crimea ; though the heat was great, 50 C. (122 F.)
in the sun, he undertook zoological excursions
and surprised every one by his endurance and
At the end of the holidays he returned to Odessa
and began his professorate with much zeal and
success. His lucid, living lectures stimulated his
pupils, third-year students, who were all older than
himself. Friendly relations soon reigned between
them and their young lecturer ; he organised practical
studies, and his laboratory became a very active
centre of work.
Thus everything was going well, and perhaps he
might have remained at Odessa for a long time if it
had not been for the following incident, due to his
passionate and intolerant disposition. A Congress of
Russian naturalists was to take place in Petersburg
at the end of the year 1867. Elie eagerly wished to
attend it as a delegate and took steps for that purpose ;
this brought him into conflict with his chief, who
desired the mission for himself. Knowing that the
old Professor had no real scientific interests, Elie
thought himself justified in insisting, and counted
upon Cienkovsky's support, but the latter was of
opinion that the younger man should give way. Elie,
becoming more and more excited, lost all sense of
proportion and committed the grave error of telling
his pupils about what he considered a serious injustice.
The latter, out of sympathy for their young lecturer,
hooted the old Professor, which naturally embittered
the quarrel. However, all the agitation ended in both
zoologists being sent to the Congress in the quality of
When he reached Petersburg, Elie hurried to the
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 61
house of his friends B , who received him with
open arms ; it was a great joy to him to find himself
in friendly surroundings after the recent strife. Im-
pulsive and impressionable as he was, the disagree-
able incidents he had traversed made him yearn to
leave Odessa, a desire which was to be promptly
realised. His communications had great success at
the Congress ; the President even invited him to
read a paper at the general meeting ; but, though
strongly attracted by this proposal, which would
have allowed the young scientist to expose his ideas
on the comparative development of the embryonic
layers, he refused it, considering that that complicated
question was not yet sufficiently matured.
Nevertheless, the Congress had brought him into
prominence and was the cause of his obtaining a
Professorship of Zoology at Petersburg. Moreover,
he had the additional good fortune of being given a
scientific mission and went abroad to work until the
He went to Naples in the spring of 1868, thinking
to find Kovalevsky there, instead of which he found
a letter from his friend awaiting him. The latter had
had to go to Messina for urgent embryological work
and begged Elie to look after his wife and new-born
child. Metchnikoff did so most willingly until he was
able to send them off to Messina. He himself followed
soon after, for Kovalevsky wrote him that zoological
specimens and conditions of work were far better at
Messina than Naples. This time, Metchnikoff under-
took the study of Sponges and Echinodermata. The
two friends worked unceasingly, but Elie's sight was
too weak for such excessive fatigue ; he was again
obliged to interrupt his studies for a while, and during
62 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
that period of enforced rest he felt for the first time
the need of a sentimental affection in his life.
He dreamed of a helpmeet who would conform with
his tastes. At Petersburg he had become very fond
of Professor B.'s young daughters, the eldest of whom
was about thirteen years old, and he wondered if he
could not train one of those little girls to become the
realisation of his ideal. He was too active by nature,
however, to linger very long over reveries or over
a prolonged rest ; he therefore undertook a short
journey through Reggio and Calabria, on his way
His eyesight being now restored, he began work
again as soon as he arrived. This period, however,
was not a pleasant one : to begin with, he obtained
in the study of Ascidia a result which differed con-
siderably from that obtained by Kovalevsky, 1 and
this scientific controversy grieved and preoccupied
them both. Besides, Elie's nerves suffered from his
constant anxiety about his eyes, the tropical heat and
the noisy life of Naples. Incessant serenades used to
keep him awake at night, and, on one occasion, his
exasperation reached such a point that he poured a
bucket of water over the head of some persistent
musicians. Tired with all these things, he left Naples
for Trieste, where he carried out successful researches
into the transformations of Echinodermata, from the
point of view of Comparative Embryology and genetic
connections between inferior animals.
Having obtained results which interested him, he
returned to Russia and joined the B. family in the
1 The latter affirmed that the nervous system of Ascidia originated from
the upper layer, whilst Elie believed that it was the lower layer which gave
birth to it. It was Kovalevsky who was right, as Elie himself declared
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 63
country, near Moscow. Their young friend Mile.
Fedorovitch, whom he had already met in Petersburg,
was staying with them, and she and Elie became very
good friends. His affection for the B. children led
him to ponder over general educational questions.
He was struck for the first time by the lack of harmony
in human nature, which was due, he thought, to the
considerable difference between the organism of the
child and that of the adult, a difference which does
not exist in animals to the same degree. 1 As soon
as he returned to Petersburg he tried to study this
subject, and made comparisons between the brain of a
man and that of a dog at various ages, but without
He was not long in realising that the conditions
of work in his new post were extremely unsatisfactory.
He had no proper laboratory and had to work between
two specimen cases in a non-heated zoological museum ;
there was no room for practical work. All his enthusi-
asm, all his aspirations towards scientific activity and
rational teaching struck against indifference, lack of
organisation, and lack of means. He protested with
his usual vehemence, but could obtain nothing ; being
equally unable to adapt himself to his uncongenial
surroundings, he found himself getting more and more
discontented and unnerved. Moreover, his every-
day life was most uncomfortable, for he wished to do
without servants, on principle and in order to econo-
mise, and to do his household work himself ; but he
soon tired of taking the necessary care of his rooms,
which became a regular chaos. He left off preparing
his own meals and went out for them to an inferior
1 He ultimately developed these considerations in a paper entitled
Education from an Anthropological Point of View, of which mention will
be made hereafter.
64 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
restaurant in the neighbourhood. Yet, in spite of
all his efforts and privations, he never seemed to make
both ends meet. He resigned himself to giving lessons
at the School of Mines in order to increase his resources;
the school was a long way off, he had to walk the
distance in the coldest weather in order to lecture
to students who did not interest him. The work
wearied him without giving him any moral compen-
sation. Altogether, the life in Petersburg, on which
he had founded great hopes, brought him nothing
but disappointments and made him become more
and more pessimistic and misanthropical.
Slight illness Engagement to Mile. Fedorovitch Marriage Illness
of the bride Pecuniary difficulties Spezzia Montreux Work in
Petersburg University The Riviera Ccelomata and Actelomata
St. Vaast Panassovka Madeira Mertens Teneriffe Return
to Odessa Bad news, hurried journey to Madeira Death of his
wife Return through Spain Attempted suicide Ephemerida\
IT was only in the house of his friends the B.'s that
Elie felt at his ease. He was devotedly fond of
their children, whom he used to take for walks on
Sundays and to the theatre now and then ; he was
always ready to read to them and to indulge them in
every possible way.
He continued to entertain the dream of marrying
one of them some day, and was particularly interested
in the eldest, a girl of thirteen, intelligent, gifted, and
lively ; however, as he knew her better, he realised
the incompatibility of their respective tempers, an
incompatibility which brought about frequent dis-
putes. These were generally smoothed down by a
mutual friend, Mile. Fedorovitch, who invariably
showed Elie a marked and cordial sympathy. He
became ill at this juncture and she nursed him with
a devotion which brought them together even more,
as will be seen from the following letter to his mother :
DEAR MOTHER I Lave just had an inflammation of the
throat which lasted two weeks ; it is quite gone now and I
would not even have mentioned it to you if it had not been
connected with what follows.
66 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
When I fell ill, the B.'s, knowing me to be alone and uncared
for, brought me to their house. During my stay with them,
I acquired the conviction that my darling little girls did not
love me, especially the eldest, who interested me even more
than her three sisters. . . . The dreams I told you of have
It was a grief to me, for, apart from my scientific interests,
I cherished them more than anything. I have no acquaint-
ances and do not require any, but I long to have some one
with me to whom I could become attached and who could
share my pleasures and leisure.
My grief would have been greater still if I had not seen
that Ludmilla Fedorovitch, whom I mentioned to you this
summer, showed me much sympathy in all my troubles.
We were already very good friends, and have now drawn
nearer together ; who knows ? perhaps the 800 roubles which
are going to be added to my salary will be very useful.
I will keep you informed of everything, dear Mother, for
I am sure of your sympathy ; I love you better than the whole
world and I have full confidence in you.
Au revoir, dear Mother, I kiss your hands. Your
Mile. Fedorovitch became ill in her turn ; the
sympathy which Elie showed her on this occasion
brought them still nearer to each other, and he soon
decided to marry her. He informed his mother of
this ; much alarmed, she tried to dissuade him, for
she feared that by marrying a girl in delicate health,
her son would be assuming too heavy a task in his
He answered as follows :
I received your letter to-day, dear Mother. It grieves
me very much. My project inspires you with doubt, you
counsel prudence and, though you say you believe me to be
reasonable, yet you fear that I am acting on an impulse. If
I really am reasonable, why fear a blind impulse ? On the
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 67
other hand, if I am blindly carried away, it is not likely that
I shall listen to reason.
I did tell you that I had great affection for the B. girls,
and it was true. But did I ever tell you that they had the
same for me ? You are mistaken in thinking that I did not
like Ludmilla Fedorovitch at first. I was not in love with
her but we were very good friends, and whilst I did not con-
sider her as my feminine ideal, I was sure of her absolutely
honest, loyal, and kindly disposition. The very fact that I
knew Ludmilla for a long time before I thought of marrying
her, should prove to you that there is some chance of my
being neither blind nor partial.
Her love for me is beyond doubt, as you will see when you
I also am very fond of her, and that is a solid basis for
Yet I will not answer for it that we shall spend our life
like a pair of turtledoves. A rosy, boundless beatitude forms
no part of my conception of the distant future.
Yet I do not see the necessity of waiting till I become a
thorough misanthrope, and I am already inclined that way.
Please do not believe that, if I do not dream of a rosy
happiness it is that I feel none at all ; that is not the case ;
I am in a happy medium.
I like Ludmilla and I feel comfortable with her ; but at
the same time I preserve the faculty of feeling every trouble
and worry in life. I do not at all think that it is enough
to love in order to be happy. Therefore I have begun to take
steps to obtain a Professor's chair, and I am very desirous
of being successful in that financial operation.
Soon after that, he wrote the following letter to his
DEAR MOTHER In my last letter I had already spoken
to you of Ludmilla Fedorovitch. I can now give you infor-
mation about her which will surely interest you.
She is not bad-looking, but that is all. She has fine
hair ; her complexion is not pretty. We are about the same
68 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
age, she is a little over 23. She was born at Orenburg ; then
she lived for a long time with her family at Kiahta (Siberia),
after which she was abroad for nearly two years and finally
settled in Moscow. Ludmilla, or Lussia, was, as you remember,
a very zealous intermediary between me and the B. girls to
whom I was so attached.
She loved me already then, though she said to herself that
I had too much affection for the B. children ever to return
And she was perfectly right, as long as my affection for
those children lasted.
But, when it ceased, I naturally took more notice of Lussia's
sympathy for me, and I am not surprised that I have acquired
much affection for her.
She has faults which must seem graver to me than to you,
but what is to be done ?
Fortunately she herself sees them. The greatest of her
faults is a too great placidity, a lack of vivacity and initiative ;
she adapts herself too easily to her surroundings. But,
being placid, she is also firm ; she can bear a great deal whilst
preserving complete self-control. She is extremely kind and
good-natured ; I have not yet found a vulgar trait in her
I have told you of her faults, you must therefore not
think me partial if I find qualities in her.
The fact is and I cannot forget it that always, when I
had any kind of trouble, she soothed me by her attitude
Even though I have dark previsions for the future (as you
know, I am not given to seeing life through rose-coloured
glasses), I cannot help thinking that by living with Lussia I
should become calmer, at least for a fairly long time.
I should cease to suffer from the misanthropy which has
invaded me lately.
I intend to have no children it is an embryologist who
is speaking. On the contrary, I want to preserve the utmost
liberty. Nevertheless, one must conform with certain legal
conventions, which will probably take place in January.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 69
Lussia has no fortune, but we shall be entirely guaranteed
by the increase in my salary.
It is very regrettable that the event should be retarded by
the customary formalities ; in any case it will certainly end
by taking place.
I beg you to write to me, dear mother that I love, anything
that comes into your head a propos of my affair.
Rejoice that I am now very happy and wish that it may
I ask the same of Papa, whom I beg you to salute from me.
I embrace you, dear Mamma, and I remain your very affec-
tionate son, E. METCHNIKOFF.
As Elie learnt to know his fiancee better, he became
more and more attached to her. Their happiness
seemed likely to be complete, but a cruel Fate had
decided otherwise. The girl's health was not im-
proving : her supposed bronchitis was assuming a
chronic character. Yet tbe marriage was not post-
poned, and the bride had to be carried to the church
in a chair for the ceremony, being too breathless and
too weak to walk so far.
Elie did his utmost to procure comforts for his- wife,
and hoped that she could still be saved by care and
a rational treatment. It was the beginning of an
hourly struggle against disease and poverty ; his
means being insufficient, he tried to eke them out by
writing translations. His eyesight weakened again
from overwork, and it was with atropin in his eyes
that he sat up night after night, translating. There
was but one well-lighted room in his flat, and he
turned it into a small laboratory for the use of his
pupils ; his own researches he had to give up, his time
being entirely taken up by teaching and translations.
He hid his precarious position from his parents
in order not to add to their heavy expenses nor to
70 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
confirm their previsions concerning his marriage. His
wife's illness, the impossibility of carrying on scientific
work, the lack of friendly sympathy to which he
thought himself entitled, all this weighed on him,
making him bitter, suspicious, and distrustful ; he
thought himself persecuted. The situation became
intolerable and, in spite of his pride, he forced him-
self to apply for a subsidy to take his wife abroad
and to go on with his researches. Having obtained
it in 1869, he immediately left Petersburg, which he
Youth is elastic : the young couple started full
of joy, gay as children, and ready to forget all their
trials. Alas, it was not for long : having halted at
Vilna in order that the patient should have a rest,
she had an attack of haemorrhage of the lungs, to the
great alarm of her husband, who nevertheless did his
best to reassure her. They continued the journey as
soon as her condition allowed it, only to be interrupted
by another relapse. At last they reached Spezzia,
chosen on account of the climate and the marine fauna.
Little by little, Ludmilla Metchnikoff's health im-
proved and her husband was able to resume work.
He studied aquatic animals in view of the genealogy
of inferior groups, and, amongst others, studied the
Tornaria, which was believed to be the larva of the
star-fish. However, to his astonishment, he ascer-
tained that, in spite of great similarity, it was not
the larva of an Echinoderm, but that of one of the
Balanoglossi, of the worm type. This fact estab-
lished a link between the Echinodermata and worms,
a very important result from the point of view of
the continuity of animal types.
Metchnikoff felt his courage returning and also
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 71
his natural high spirits. His wife, who was a clever
draughtswoman, helped him with the drawings for
his memoir, and both felt happy and contented ; this
stay at Spezzia was a real oasis in their life.
When the heat became excessive they went to
Reichenhall, a summer resort prescribed by the
doctor. There, Metchnikoff completed his previous
researches on the development of the scorpion, and
finally established the fact that this animal possesses
the three embryonic layers which correspond to those
of the Vertebrates.
As his young wife's health was still too precarious
to allow her to spend the winter in Kussia, Metchnikoff,
obliged to return to Petersburg, installed .her at Mon-
treux and asked his sister-in-law, Mile. Fedorovitch,
to stay with her. The enforced separation deeply
grieved the young couple, whose only consolation was
Metchnikoff resumed a life of hard work ; he was
now an agrege at the Petersburg University and
had to leave the School of Mines ; this diminished his
resources, but at the same time he obtained an extra
salary of 800 roubles as Extraordinary Professor.
His position in the University was nevertheless very
difficult, for his situation was coveted by different
parties with which he had nothing to do. They
wanted it for one of their adherents. His devoted
friend Setchenoff, Prof essor of Physiology, then thought
of proposing him to the Faculty of Medicine as a
Lecturer in Zoology, and whilst Metchnikoff awaited
the result of his efforts, he obtained leave to go to the
seaside to do research work.
He joined his wife and took her to San Remo
and to Villafranca. Her health had improved and
72 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
she was even able to take part in his work. He was
engaged in studying Medusae and Siphonophora,
animals which interested him, not only from the point
of view of the origin of embryonic layers, but also
from that of general morphology, for he was still
pursuing the problem of genetic links between
animals. He had already been able to prove the
presence of embryonic layers in many inferior animals ;
moreover, he had found, while studying the meta-
morphoses of Echinodermata, the proof that the struc-
tural plan, hitherto considered immutable, could
become transformed in course of development. Thus
the bilateral plan of the larva of Echinoderma becomes
a radial plan in the adult. The structural plan there-
fore is not an absolutely differentiating character,
since specimens of the same type can show a different
plan according to their stage of development. One
of the genetic questions still unsolved was that of the
body cavity. Always present in higher animals, it
is totally absent in certain lower groups, such as
Sponges, Polypi, and Medusae. It was being ques-
tioned whether their dissimilar morphological char-
acters did not correspond with a duality of origin
separating animals which possessed a body cavity
(Ccelomata) from those which did not (Aco3lomata).
Kovalevsky, it is true, had observed that the
body cavity of many animals (Amphioxus, Sagitta,
Brachiopoda) took its origin in the lateral sacs of the
digestive cavity, sacs which detach themselves from
it in order to form the body cavity. But, in order
to establish a genetic connection between those
animals that have a body cavity and those which
are devoid of it, it was necessary to show the homo-
logy of corresponding organs in both groups.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 73
Through his researches on the development of
Coelomata (Echinodermata) on the one hand and
Acoelomata (Ctenophora and Medusae) on the other,
Metchnikoff succeeded in proving that the lateral sacs
of the digestive cavity which give birth to the body
cavity of the Ccelomata (Echinodermata) correspond
to the canals and vaso-digestive sacs of the Accelo-
mata (Ctenophora and Medusae). The difference
consists in that the latter do not detach themselves
in order to form a body cavity, which is therefore
The result of his researches satisfied Metchnikoff ;
moreover, he began to feel again hopeful of his wife's
recovery. The only dark spot was that Setchenoff's
efforts had failed. Metchnikoff was not appointed
by the Faculty of Medicine, for it was found advisable
to replace the Chair of Zoology by one on Venereal
Diseases. On the other hand, he was nominated for
the Odessa University, supported by Cienkovsky and
As he only had to go to his new post in the autumn,
he went for the summer to St. Vaast in Normandy
to study Lucernaria ; unfortunately the stay was not
a success ; the weather was cold and the sea very
rough, which made the Lucernaria impossible to find.
Life conditions were very difficult, all the male popu-
lation being at sea and the women being in the fields.
In order not to waste this journey he studied Ascidians,
and found that he had previously been mistaken at
Naples when he thought that the nervous system of
those animals originated from the lower embryonic
layer. Kovalevsky had been right in affirming the
contrary, and Elie hastened to write to tell him so.
St. Vaast, open to every wind, was not favourable
74 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
to the patient, and Metchnikoff had to take her away.
They went to Russia to stay with her parents and then
to Panassovka. The doctors having advised a course
of treatment by " koumiss," or fermented mare's
milk prepared in a special way by the Tartars, Elie
engaged a Tartar servant specially for that purpose,
but in vain. In spite of every treatment, his wife's
health was steadily growing worse. The cold at St.
Vaast had been followed by such a dry heat in Russia
that, in order to procure a little coolness for the
patient, they had to spread wet sheets around her.
She constantly had high temperatures and frequent
attacks of haemorrhage. It was obvious that she
must leave Russia, and Metchnikoff, obliged to rejoin
his post at Odessa, asked Mile. Fedorovitch to go
with her to Montreux.
The separation was all the harder that all hope of
recovery was beginning to wane. The patient, how-
ever, had been told of the magical effect of Madeira
in cases of tuberculosis, and she clung to the idea as
to a plank of safety. Elie resolved to take her there.
He set to work with renewed ardour in order to obtain
the sum necessary for the journey ; in spite of all his
self-denial, his normal resources would not have
sufficed, and he had recourse to translations and
literary articles. He had a theme ready, which he
developed in a paper called Education from the Anthro-
pological Point of View in fact a preliminary sketch
of his ideas on the disharmonies in human nature.
In it, he analysed the disharmonies due to the great
difference of development between the child and the
adult : whilst the young of animals are very rapidly
able to imitate the adults and to live like them, the
man-child is incapable of it. His brain, especially in
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 75
civilised races, demands a long period of development
in order to equal that of the adult, whilst certain
instincts in the organism mature, on the contrary, long
before their function is possible. Moreover, a child's
sensibility is extremely developed whilst his will is
by no means so. These causes provoke suffering and
a series of regrettable consequences.
Apart from frenzied efforts and unceasing labour,
Metchnikoff was going through a painful moral crisis,
due to the impossibility of making his conduct accord
with his convictions. Party intrigues continued to
be rife at the Odessa University : Poles were being
persecuted by Nationalists ; one professor was refused
admission on account of his Polish nationality, and
Cienkovsky resigned by way of protest. Metchnikoff
shared his views and longed to follow his example,
but was prevented by his lack of means and felt it
deeply. It also went against his conscience to ask
for leave as frequently as his wife's condition made it
She wished to see her parents once again before
going to Madeira, and he took her to Russia for the
last time : she never saw her family again.
At last they were able to start. The long journey
was very fatiguing, the sea voyage was rough, but,
when she landed in Madeira, the patient thought herself
saved. The very next morning Metchnikoff started
feverishly on a voyage of discovery. Nature on the
island was extremely beautiful ; alone the sight of
numerous sick people reminded him of suffering and
death. The words " a flower-decked grave " haunted
his mind, and a growing despondency warned him that
he had nothing to expect from this luxuriant spot.
From the aspect of the rocky coast, beaten by the
76 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
waves, he realised that the beach fauna must be very
poor ; his only refuge, research work, was likely to be
He was advised to hire a small house, which would
be cheaper than a boarding-house, and he did find
a pretty furnished villa with a garden ; it was beyond
his means, but a young Russian named Mertens, who
had been a fellow-traveller, proposed to share it with
them. The arrangement proved highly satisfactory,
and Mertens, at first merely an agreeable neighbour,
became a close friend.
Before leaving for Madeira, Metchnikoff had
obtained a scientific mission and a subsidy from the
Society of Natural Science Lovers of Moscow, and
felt it a moral obligation to obtain some results. The
scantiness of the marine fauna was a bitter disappoint-
ment ; he had to fall back upon what little he found,
and embarked on the study, hitherto unknown, of
the embryology of Myriapoda. But this research
work brought him a new source of torment instead of
satisfaction : he could not master the technique, which
proved to be very difficult, and this irritated him ;
his failures disappointed him, made him vexed with
himself ; his nerves, already strung to the highest
point by suffering and anxiety, made the disappoint-
ment unbearable. On the other hand, the external
aspect of life formed a striking contrast with the state
of his mind. A wealth of natural beauty, all flowers
and perfumes, in an incomparable site, congenial sur-
roundings and home comforts formed the frame for
these two young lives, of which one was waning whilst
the other was spent in a useless struggle to save it.
MetchnikofFs natural pessimism was growing under
the influence of these painful circumstances. His
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 77
conception of life was a sombre one ; he said to himself
that the " disharmonies " of human nature must in-
fallibly end in a general decadence of humanity. He
set forth his reflections in an article entitled The Time
for Marriage, in which he discussed the following
concrete fact : With the progress of civilisation and
culture, the time for marriage recedes gradually,
whereas puberty remains as early as before ; the
result is that the time between puberty and marriage
is becoming longer and longer, and constitutes a
growing period in which there is no harmony. The
statistics of suicides prove that there is a close con-
nection between them and the period of disharmonies.
Whilst he worked, his wife tried to make use of
her leisure : she interested herself in poor children,
sketched flowers, read novels ... life flowed peace-
fully in spite of the underlying drama.
Yet the thought that he was not fulfilling his
obligations was intolerable to Metchnikoff. He
thought of resigning and founding a small book-shop
at Madeira in order to be independent and not obliged
to leave his wife, but lack of funds made this plan
impossible. In his search for new resources, he went
to Teneriffe to look for a subject for an article. He
met with several disappointments on this trip ; yet
he saw the Villa Orotava, with its celebrated giant
dragon-tree, which had already then been brought
down by a storm. He also visited the Caves of the
Guancios, the primitive inhabitants of the Canary
Islands. Having gathered the necessary observations,
he hastened to return to Madeira, where months passed
without bringing any change.
The book-shop idea was abandoned as being im-
practicable and Metchnikofi had to return to Odessa,
78 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
asking his sister-in-law to come to Madeira in his
place. When she had arrived, he confided the two
girls to Mertens and to the care of the devoted Dr.
Goldschmidt, and went away conscious of the useless-
ness of his efforts and more deeply pessimistic than
When he reached Odessa, in October 1872, he
found there his friend Setchenoff, whom he had pre-
viously proposed for a Physiology Lecturer's chair,
and whose affection was a great comfort to him at
this sad time. The correspondence between him
and his wife during that period is full of an infinite
tenderness, as if they felt the supreme separation
coming near, and yearned to express their mutual love.
At the end of January 1873, between two classes,
Metchnikoff received a letter from his sister-in-law
telling him to come in haste if he wished to find his
wife still living. He delivered his lecture like an auto-
maton, then went to obtain his leave and hurried off.
He accomplished the whole journey without a break.
On arriving at Madeira he found his wife so changed
that he scarcely knew her, and it was only through
sheer force of will that he kept his alarm from her.
She suffered so much that she had to be given morphia
constantly and could no longer leave her bed.
Metchnikoff himself was in very poor health ; his
eyes were so sensitive from overwork that he had
to remain in the dark, only going into the garden at
dusk to observe spiders and snails. Time was pro-
gressing slowly and miserably, and bringing nothing
but anxiety as to the means to support this sad
existence. Metchnikoff had hoped to receive the
Baer prize for a zoological work, but did not obtain
it : it was refused on the pretext that his memoir
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 79
had been presented in manuscript instead of being
printed. In reality, the German party had wished
to give it to a fellow-German.
A friend -of his, who sent him the bad news, offered
to lend him 300 roubles, and Metchnikoff accepted ;
he could now think of nothing but holding out till
One morning the patient's condition suddenly
became much worse. The doctor was sent for in a
hurry and declared that it was now a question of a
few hours. . . . When Metchnikoff went back to his
wife he found her with eyes wide open and so full of
mortal anguish and utter despair that he could bear
it no longer and went out hastily, not to show her
This was his last impression ; he never saw her again.
Only half conscious, he walked up and down the
drawing-room, opening and closing books without
seeing them, his mind full of disconnected pictures ;
he wondered to himself how his family would hear
the news. Time passed without his realising it.
Then his sister-in-law came to tell him that all was
over. This was on the 20th April 1873.
Metchnikoff's feelings were complex : a mixture
of crushing despair and of relief at the thought that
the terrible agony was at last ended. . . . During
the whole of the sad first night he sat with his sister-
in-law in a distant room, talking of those things
which are only mentioned in moments such as these.
When Dr. Goldschmidt came in the morning to offer
Metchnikoff his sympathy and help he found him
apparently almost calm. Metchnikoff asked him to
make a post-mortem examination of the deceased
and to look after her sister. A Scottish minister
80 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
came to bring religious comfort and to exhort him
to look there for consolation. Metchnikoff thanked
him, but firmly assured him that it was not possible
The funeral took place two days later ; he did not
attend it and did not see the corpse. Immediately
after the funeral he left Madeira with his sister-in-law.
Being no longer anxious to economise, he took with
him a sick young Russian who wished to see his mother
again and could not afford the journey.
After the catastrophe, MetchnikofE felt incapable
of thinking of the future, his life seemed cut off at one
blow ; he destroyed his papers and reserved a phial
of morphia, without any settled intention. They
journeyed back through Spain ; it was during the
Carlist insurrection, and several episodes on the way
distracted their attention. Elie and his sister-in-
law reached Geneva, where they found Leo Metch-
nikoff and several relations, among whom he seems
to have recovered himself. He even related some of
their travelling experiences, meetings with Carlists,
frontier incidents, etc., with some spirit. But his
apparent calm concealed black despair.
He said to himself : " Why live ? My private
life is ended ; my eyes are going ; when I am blind
I can no longer work, then why live ? " Seeing no
issue to his situation, he absorbed the morphia. He
did not know that too strong a dose, by provoking
vomiting, eliminates the poison. Such was the case
with him. He fell into a sort of torpor, of extra-
ordinary comfort and absolute rest ; in spite of this
comatose state he remained conscious and felt no
fear of death. When he became himself again, it
was with a feeling of dismay. He said to himself that
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 81
only a grave illness could save him, either by ending
in death or by awaking the vital instinct in him.
In order to attain his object, he took a very hot bath
and then exposed himself to cold. As he was coming
back by the Rhone bridge, he suddenly saw a cloud
of winged insects flying around the flame of a lantern.
They were Phryganidse, but in the distance he took
them for Ephemeridse, and the sight of them sug-
gested the following reflection : " How can the theory
of natural selection be applied to these insects ? They
do not feed and only live a few hours ; they are there-
fore not subject to the struggle for existence, they do
not have time to adapt themselves to surrounding
His thoughts turned towards Science ; he was
saved ; the link with life was re-established.
Anthropological expedition to the Kalmuk steppes Affection of the
eyes Second expedition to the steppes The eggs of the Geophilus.
AFTER the misfortune which had befallen him
Metchnikoff placed his only hope in work, and the
condition of his eyes was therefore for him a source
of great preoccupation. He applied to the Peters-
burg Geographical Society for an anthropological
mission in order to undertake researches less trying
to his eyesight than microscopical work.
As he went deeper into anthropology, he was struck
by the fact that this science lacked a leading thread
and was guided by no general idea but reduced to
mere measurements, very precise and detailed, it is
true. Metchnikoff wondered whether it would not
be advisable to apply to anthropology the methods
used in embryology and to establish an analogy
between the diverse human races and the different
ages of the individual. In order to solve this problem
he had thought at first of visiting the Samoyedes
as being the most primitive of the aboriginal peoples
of Russia. But the project was not realisable and he
determined to visit, at his own expense, the Kalmuks
of the Astrakhan steppes, also a primitive Mongol race.
Before his departure he went to see his family
and that of his late wife. Long afterwards his sister-
in-law, Mile. Fedorovitch, wrote me the following
account of that interview :
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 83
He was still suffering from an inflammation of the eyes.
This man, whom I cannot picture to myself without a micro-
scope or a book, was, at that sad period of his life, reduced
to complete inactivity. We had always been struck with
his power of becoming absorbed in scientific reading, even
during meals ; it inconvenienced no one, for he heard at
the same time the conversation that was going on and even
took part in it from time to time. Now, the day after his
arrival, I came to call him to tea and found him seated in his
darkened room with scissors in his hands and the floor around
him littered with small pieces of paper . . . such was the
occupation to which he was reduced.
He told me that, if I liked, he would come to live in Moscow
and devote his life and his work to OUT family. I refused
and told him why ; my refusal grieved him, but I was right.
Besides a feeling of generosity, his offer was actuated by a
desire for an immediate object in life. Soon after that, he
started for the Kalmuk steppes in order to undertake anthro-
pological researches. I was often haunted by the thought of
his sad figure in the midst of the steppes.
The journey was difficult and fatiguing. Metch-
nikoff did not know the Kalmuk language and had to
depend on interpreters. From the very first he was
painfully impressed by the brutality of the Russian
officials towards the natives. At every halt the
Kalmuks declared that they had no horses ; the
Cossack who convoyed Metchnikoff would then begin
to swear and to play with his " nagaika " or leather-
thonged whip, and the required horses appeared as
by magic. After a while MetchnikofE became used
to such scenes and looked upon them as a custom of
the country. He found it more difficult to put up
with the indescribable dirt, the smell of mutton fat
which impregnated the food, and the continual barking
of dogs during the night, details which destroyed the
charm and poetry of primitive life. In spite of these
84 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
unfavourable conditions, MetchnikofE worked inde-
f atigably. The physical measurements of the Kalmuks
led him to conclude that the development of the
Mongol race was arrested in comparison with that of
the Caucasian race ; he found that all the relative
proportions of the diverse parts of the Kalmuk skeleton
corresponded with that of youth in the Caucasian
race : a large head, a long torso, short legs, absolutely
the relative dimensions of our children. This con-
clusion was further confirmed by the structure of the
eyelid in the Kalmuks, of which the fold (epicanthus)
in the adult corresponds with that of the fold of the
eyelid in our children.
These interesting results somewhat raised Metch-
nikoff's moral, the more so that his eyesight began
to improve ; he returned to Odessa but found that
he was still unable to use a microscope. He therefore
decided to go back to the steppes in order to proceed
with his researches, and, this time, began his journey
by the Stavropol province. The steppes there are
very fine, with tall, luxuriant grasses and a profusion
of flowers filling the pure atmosphere with perfume ;
the infinite space and absolute calm offer a peculiar
and powerful charm. But the population is depressed
and apathetic, as is the case with that of the Astrakhan
steppes. The reason must be that the Kalmuks con-
sume milk which has undergone alcoholic fermen-
tation, and that provokes a slight but chronic intoxi-
cation. Yet a few among them are extremely
intelligent and of fairly high culture. Thus, in the
course of his ethnographical researches Metchnikoff
came across a priest (baksha) who imparted to him
such instructive facts on the principles of the Buddhist
religion and on the organisation of its clergy that he
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 85
even planned to go with him to Thibet, where no
stranger can penetrate without the help of an adept.
This plan, however, was never executed.
After he had collected numerous anthropological
data, Metchnikoff went again to the Astrakhan steppes
in order to verify and to complete his observations
of the preceding year. Whilst traversing some oases
where the Russians were making experiments in
artificial forestry, he had the pleasant surprise of
finding some Myriapoda (Geophilus) bearing a number
of eggs. The history of the development of those
creatures was still unknown a notable lacuna in
embryology. Delighted at the idea of filling it,
Metchnikoff did not hesitate to undertake a long and
difficult extra journey and repaired to Astrakhan,
taking with him his precious material, in order to
fetch the necessary apparatus for his researches.
But during the long journey several eggs perished and
he had to return to the oasis with a borrowed micro-
scope to study other eggs on the spot. In spite of
very difficult conditions and of the persistent weak-
ness of his eyesight, he succeeded in filling the lacuna
in the embryology of the Geophilus.
He had at the same time collected very interesting
anthropological data. His hypothesis as to the neces-
sity of applying to anthropology the comparative
methods of embryology was fully justified, for, thanks
to that process, he was able to establish a definite
correlation between the Mongol race and the adoles-
cence of the Caucasian race. He presented a report
on the subject to the Anthropological Society of
Moscow, but, his attention being afterwards turned in
other directions, he never came back to this subject.
" As to thee, Hector, thou art to
me as a father and a revered mother
and a brother, and thou art my
husband." The Iliad.
Studies on childhood The family in the upper flat Lessons in zoology
Second marriage Private life Visit and death of Lvovna
Nevahovna Conjugal affection.
METCHNIKOFF'S anthropological researches led him
to the study of childhood, which in its turn suggested
reflections on questions of Pedagogy. His eyesight
was still weak and his hunger for activity very great ;
in order to satisfy it, he gave lessons in a Lycee and
public lectures in the Odessa University. Though
time was passing, Metchnikoff could not get used to
his solitude ; he spent his active kindness on his
friends and all around him, whilst living like an
ascetic and giving away all that he could spare. But
nothing could quench his thirst for a family life and
My family at that time lived in the same house
as he did, on the floor above him ; we were eight
children, our ages ranging from one to sixteen years.
We were noisy neighbours and we incommoded Metch-
nikoff, who was awakened every morning by the
noise in our kitchen, where meat was being minced
for the children. One fine day he could stand it no
longer and went upstairs to ask if this nuisance could
not be stopped ; my father promised that he would
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 87
see that it ceased. We were all seated round the tea-
table when he came in, and, seeing a stranger, my
sister and I hurriedly collected our lesson books, and
hastened to leave the room. We did not even have
time to distinguish Metchnikoff's features, but were
struck by his paleness. Shortly after that incident
we met him at the house of a mutual friend. He had
already seen us from his window as we went off to
the Lycee, and it used to amuse him to see us bravely
stepping over a large pool of water which was per-
manent in the street.
One of his pupils was a professor in our Lycee,
and Elie had the opportunity of informing himself
concerning our studies. Having heard that I was
interested in natural science, it occurred to him to
offer to give me lessons in zoology. I was delighted.
He asked and obtained permission from my parents,
and we eagerly set to work. Elie, being strongly
attracted by me, returned to his former idea of
training a girl according to his own ideas and after-
wards making her his wife. He might have realised
his programme of completing my education first and
marrying me afterwards if he had not been prevented
by the complete lack of accord between his ideas and
those of my father. It was the eternal conflict of
two generations, "fathers and children." My father
was an excellent man, of great nobility of character,
but he was a type of the old Russian patrician school
and belonged to a different epoch, with different
opinions and customs. This caused inevitable and
frequent disagreements, and Elie decided to ask for
my hand without further delay.
My mother was much younger than my father,
and her sympathies were all with the young genera-
88 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
tion. She was an idealist, gentle, intelligent and
artistic, and, in her youth, had painted and played the
violoncello, but a very early marriage and numerous
children had forced her to give up the practice of art,
to her lifelong regret. Great sympathy arose between
her and Elie ; she supported him in everything and
became for him a tenderly attached friend. He
explained to her his theories on marriage, and then
confided to her his feelings towards me. My extreme
youth troubled her very much, but Elie endeavoured
to reassure her, saying that he fully understood the
rashness of his projects, but that he was ready to
suffer all the consequences ; in fact, he declared, if
he did not succeed in making me happy, he would
have the strength to help me to create another exist-
ence for myself. I had not suspected my Professor's
feelings towards me, and was deeply moved when I
was told of them ; it seemed to me impossible to
understand that this superior, this learned man could
wish to marry a little girl like myself ! I thought
with terror that he must be mistaken about me ; I
felt as if I were going up for an examination without
any previous study. However, I had a great affec-
tion and admiration for Elie ; I was attracted by his
whole personality, which produced a strong impression
upon others as well as upon myself. This is how
Setchenoff describes him, in his own autobiography :
Elie Metchnikoff was the soul of our circle. Of all the
young men I have known in my life, young Metchnikoff was
the most attractive with his lively intelligence, inexhaustible
wit and abundant knowledge of all things. He was, in Science,
as serious and as productive (he had already done much in
zoology and acquired a great name in that branch) as he was
full of life and varied interest in a circle of friends.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 89
Moreover, my young imagination was impressed
by his sad history and by his interesting appearance,
at that time not unlike a figure of Christ ; his pale
face was illumined by the light in his kindly eyes, which
at times looked absolutely inspired. My whole heart
went out to him, but I was not yet ripe for matrimony
and was somewhat thrown off my balance by the
unexpectedness of the event. Fearing that I was not
up to his level, I used to try beforehand to find
worthy subjects of conversation in order that he should
not feel bored in my society, but everything I thought
of seemed to me so clumsy and stupid that I rejected
one subject after another until he came and found me
at a loss. He could not understand how deeply I
was troubled, and cannot have been satisfied with my
attitude, which really was that of a zealous pupil.
Our marriage took place in February 1875 ; it
was a very cold winter and the ground was covered
with a thick coating of glistening snow. A few hours
before the ceremony my brothers came with a little
hand sledge to fetch me for a last ride. " Come quick,"
they said, " this evening you will be a grown-up lady,
and you can't play with us any more ! " I agreed,
and we rushed out to the snowy carpet which covered
the great yard of our house. In the midst of our
mad race my mother appeared at the window ; she
had been looking for me everywhere and was much
disturbed. " My dear child ! what are you thinking
of ? It is late, you have hardly time to dress and
to do your hair ! " " One more turn, mother ! It is
the last time, think of it ! " Other childish emotions
awaited me ; my wedding-dress was the first long
dress I had ever worn, and I feared to stumble as I
walked. Then, too, I was frightened at the idea of
90 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
entering the church under the eyes of all the guests.
My little brother tried to reassure me by offering to
hold my hand, and my mother made me drink some
chocolate to give me courage.
Elie was awaiting us at the entrance ; my shyness
increased when I heard people whispering around us,
" Why, she is a mere child ! " The ceremony took
place in the evening, after which Elie wrapped me
carefully in a long warm cloak and we set off, the
sledge gliding like the wind, towards our new home.
In spite of the day's emotions, I rose very early the
next morning in order to work at my zoology exercises
and to give my husband a pleasant surprise. He was
now free to superintend my education, a very difficult
and delicate task when having to do with a mind as
unprepared for life as mine was.
The scientific methods which Metchnikoff applied
to everything might have constituted a grave error
at this delicate psychological moment ; yet, in many
ways, he showed himself a strangely clear-sighted
educator. He made it a principle to give me entire
liberty whilst directing me through the logic of his
arguments. It is with deep gratitude that I realise
how he, so superior to me, took care not to stifle my
fragile individuality but to respect it and to encourage
it to develop. Like all Russian young people of the
time, I was very enthusiastic concerning political and
social questions that I was not mature enough to
understand, and my father forbade us to frequent
political circles with which he had no sympathy, fear-
ing that we might be influenced by them. Elie, on
the contrary, left me full liberty, though he himself
disapproved of my tendencies. He considered that
political and social questions belonged to the realm of
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 91
practical experience, in which young people were
lacking, as also in practical preparation. He never
prevented me from making myself acquainted with
the social movement, but submitted it to close analysis
and criticism ; it is owing to this very efficacious
method that I did not become one of the numerous
political victims of that time.
Elie took a lively and warm interest in everything
which concerned me. Not having had time to pass
my final examinations from the Lycee before my mar-
riage, I was now obliged to go up before a special
board for the whole curriculum. He helped me to
prepare this, even the catechism, with the utmost
keenness and gaiety, enlivening the driest subjects
by means of interesting and instructive reading. I
was glad to continue my biological studies under his
direction after I had passed my examinations. Not
only did he give a general interest, a leading thread,
to every particular subject, but he also knew how to
develop independent work. For instance, he made
me compare representative examples of divers groups
by practical study in order to let me deduce for
myself their characteristics and their generic con-
And it was not my education only which interested
him ; he associated me with every detail of his life
and initiated me into his thoughts and his work ;
we read together a great deal, he had an excellent
delivery and liked reading aloud.
He thoroughly enjoyed giving me pleasure ; we
often went to concerts and theatres, and beautiful
music or dramatic scenes moved him even to tears.
Musical themes haunted him, and he would whistle
them softly to himself even at his work. Without
92 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
caring for luxury, he was glad to contribute to the
simple embellishment of our home because he knew
I appreciated it. When we travelled, always with
scientific research as an object, he never failed to
point out every interesting feature that we happened
to pass. He had a peculiar talent for making a
journey instructive as well as attractive ; his eager-
ness, infectious gaiety, inquisitive mind, and remark-
able organising faculty made of him an incomparable
guide and companion.
We worked together for many years ; it was both
delightful and profitable to work with him, for he
opened out his ideas unreservedly and made one
share his enthusiasm and his interest in investigations ;
he could create an atmosphere of intimate union in
the search for truth which allowed the humblest
worker to feel himself a collaborator in an exalted
Though I always took a strong interest in scientific
questions, Art was the real passion of my life. But,
imbued as I was with the narrow, utilitarian views
which surrounded my youth, I had looked upon Art
as a luxury which should not be indulged in at a time
when the poorer classes could not read and write.
When at last I became emancipated from this fallacy,
my husband did his best to encourage my artistic
development though he himself did not appreciate
plastic art. Form and colour in themselves or in
harmony did not appeal to him ; he took much more
interest in a subject than in the way it was treated ;
he liked psychological or realistic work, landscapes,
" genre " pictures, but classical, Kenaissance, or Im-
pressionist works bored him. In spite of the diver-
gence of our tastes in that connection, he never ceased
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 93
to encourage me or to take an active interest in my
work ; often and often he accompanied me to picture
galleries, making sincere and somewhat pathetic efforts
to appreciate the beauty of great masterpieces.
Next to music he enjoyed Nature most, perhaps
because it offered him an inexhaustible source of
scientific observation. His wearied nerves caused him
to seek for soothing impressions, and calm, quiet
ponds were what he preferred, with their reeds and
aquatic plants, among which he loved to discover tiny
beings, hidden under the leaves and below the surface
of the water.
Teaching and public work took up nearly the whole
of his time ; his leisure was devoted to home life
and to an intimate circle of friends with whom he
was bound by a common scientific fervour and by a
University life. He kept up those friendships even
after life had scattered them. His active kindness
made him a centre of attraction to his relations and
we were always very much surrounded. After his
father died, in 1878, his mother and two of her grand-
children came to live with us. She was at that time
sixty-four years of age and had the appearance of an
old lady ; she did not follow the fashion but wore her
white hair simply parted and framing her face ; alone
her fine dark eyes had preserved their youthful
sparkle and bore witness to her former beauty. She
had a bright and cheerful disposition and a charming
kindliness to every one ; her desire for activity was
unfortunately thwarted by the state of her health.
Elie showed his mother a tender solicitude which
manifested itself in the smallest details ; for instance,
he who detested cards would play Patience with her ;
or he would drive her round the markets, which
94 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
interested her like the good housekeeper she was.
When he came in from the laboratory he never failed
to go to her to ask her for details of her health ; he
talked to her playfully and affectionately, making
her laugh, telling her the incidents of the day. She
continued to be interested in everything, especially
that which concerned her dear Elie, the " consolation
of her life," as she called him.
In spite of his affection for his mother, he bore
her almost sudden death very stoically, knowing as
he did that the grave heart disease from which she
suffered was bound to cause her increasing pain.
My family became his, and the relations between
him and my father became such that the latter,
feeling ill and nearing his end, made him our guardian.
Until the last my mother preserved for my husband
a tender friendship which he fully returned. For
years he bore the burden and responsibilities of the
family. With my young brothers and sisters he kept
up a tone of merry affection ; always indulgent with
them, he was anxious to neglect nothing that could
be useful. Though ever led by the desire to procure
happiness around him, it sometimes happened that
he made a mistake in his appreciation and failed to
reach his goal. The human soul is a riddle, life is
complicated, and we ought not always to judge by
results but by motives. ... As far as I am personally
concerned, his affection, kindness, and solicitude have
always been unbounded. If during early years a few
misunderstandings arose between us, they were due
to my youthful obstinacy or to his nervous sensitive-
ness. We had our trials, but our friendship and deep
affection emerged from them stronger and purer than
ever. At a certain time, Elie, believing that happiness
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 95
called me elsewhere, offered me my liberty, urging
that I had a moral right to it. The nobility of his
attitude was the best safeguard. ... As years went
on, our lives became more and more united ; we lived
in deep communion of souls, for we had reached that
stage of mutual comprehension when darkness flees
and all is light.
Metchnikoff at the age of thirty Lecturing in Odessa University, from
1873 to 1882 Internal difficulties Assassination of the Tsar,
Alexander II. Further troubles in the University Resignation
Bad health : cardiac symptoms Relapsing fever Choroiditis
Studies on Ephemeridse Further studies on intracellular
digestion The Parenchymella Holidays in the country Experi-
ments on agricultural pests.
ELIE METCHNIKOFF was now thirty years old, and his
personality was fully characterised though it had not
yet reached the culminating point of its development.
His dominating point was his passionate vocation ;
his worship of Science and of Reason made of him
an inspired apostle. He had the faults and qualities
of a rich and powerful nature. Vibrating through all
the fibres of his being, he shed life and light around
him. His temper was violent and passionate ; he
could bear no attack on the ideas which were dear
to him, and became combative as soon as he thought
them threatened. His was a wrestler's temperament ;
obstacles exasperated his energy and he went straight
for them, pursuing his object with an invincible
tenacity ; he never gave up a problem, however
difficult, and never hesitated to face any sacrifice or
any privation if he thought them necessary.
A strange contradiction with this iron will was
offered by occasional disconcerting impulses, like that
which caused the failure of his first journey abroad,
or by sudden attacks of fury for insignificant reasons
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 97
such as an unexpected noise in the street, a cat mewing
or a dog barking, or angry impatience when he could
not solve a frivolous puzzle, etc. This impulsive
disposition gradually calmed down as he grew older,
and ultimately very nearly disappeared.
In his personal relations also he was apt to lose
his temper, but a reaction very soon followed the
outburst, and his efforts to be forgiven when he felt
guilty were very touching. On the other hand, he
did not easily forget an offence, though no desire for
revenge ever soiled his soul, and his gratitude for
kindness was absolutely indestructible.
He harboured pessimistic theories to that extent
that he looked upon the procreation of other lives as
a crime on the part of a conscious being ; his physical
and moral sensitiveness was intense. And yet he
had inherited from his mother a natural gaiety and
delightful elasticity which always ended by gaining
the upper hand. He was fond of joking ; his wit was
occasionally somewhat cutting, but that was entirely
due to the appropriateness of his remarks ; he never
hurt people's feelings intentionally. He sometimes
gave offence by a professional habit of using personal
and concrete instances by way of arguments, but he
applied the process to himself as well ; it was the
objective method, nothing more, and those who knew
him well never doubted it.
His benevolence was most active and never insipid,
though marked by an almost feminine sensibility.
He was an incomparable companion and friend, and
had the gift of smoothing difficulties and inspiring
courage, security, and confidence. He took the
greatest interest in others and easily came down to
their level, always finding points in common, " an
98 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
opportunity for the study of human documents," he
said. Thus he conversed simply and sympathetically
with the humble as with the great, with the young as
with the old. It was no mere intellectual interest that
he bore them, but he put his whole heart into it, which
made him extremely easy to approach. And yet he
never departed from absolute freedom of speech, some-
times mixed with harshness. Truth and sincerity, for
him, came above everything ; he carried the courage
of his opinions to the highest degree, even if it was
likely to shock his hearers or to do him harm. He
jealously guarded his independence and nothing could
force him to act against his convictions. Full of
enthusiasm, always interesting, he enlivened all
around him. His ideas and his activity were in
constant effervescence ; no serious question left him
indifferent ; he read everything, knew about almost
everything, and willingly informed others ; his vibrat-
ing expansiveness made him a centre of attraction in
his private life as in the laboratory or in any other
sphere of activity.
From 1873 to 1882 his energies were chiefly
absorbed by teaching and by the inner life of the
University of Odessa, into which he threw himself
with his usual enthusiasm. His lectures were full of
life, always bringing out general ideas to throw light
upon the most arid facts ; he made use of these as
an architect utilises coarse materials in order to erect
a harmonious edifice. His creative power endowed
his lectures with an aesthetic character in spite of
their extreme simplicity ; not that he concerned
himself much about form, but because of his wealth
of ideas and the logical way in which he developed
them, starting from the simple and reaching the
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 99
complex in a harmonious synthesis. His own enthusi-
asm established a living bond between him and his
He was on excellent terms with the students,
though he made no bid for popularity. Not only did
he give no encouragement to the prevailing tendency
of the young men towards politics, but he endeavoured
on the contrary to bring them back to their studies ;
he tried to prove to them that social problems demand
knowledge and a serious practical preparation. Other-
wise, said he, social life would be as medicine was
before it entered into the path of science, and when
any middle-aged woman, any bone-setter, was allowed
to practise therapeutics. At the same time, students
found in him willing protection in the persecutions
directed against them, and earnest help in their work
when they showed the least interest in it ; he would
eagerly welcome the smallest spark of the " sacred fire."
Owing to the absolute independence of his ideas
and conduct he had great influence on young men,
and this caused him to be looked upon in adminis-
trative spheres as a " Red " almost an agitator. In
reality he was struggling against the inertia and
reactionary forces which were shackling the normal
development of culture and science in Russia. He
called himself a " progressive evolutionist," for he
considered that alone a deep and conscious evolution
could give stable results and lead to real progress.
He thought that Revolution, and especially Terrorism,
merely provoked a reaction which might be long-
lived, and that, as long as the people were not suffi-
ciently educated, a revolution might easily result in
the transfer of despotism from one party to another.
Socialistic doctrines did not satisfy him ; according
100 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
to him, they did not leave sufficient scope to personal
initiative and to the development of individuality,
two factors which he considered as essential to every
He looked upon scientific work as his mission, and
avoided politics because he did not think himself
competent to deal with them. But scientific activity
being closely limited by the state of the University,
which was badly oppressed at that time by re-
actionary powers, he was led to take part in the
defence of the University's right to autonomy. He
brought all his energies into the struggle, though
trying to keep from party tactics and to act purely
in the interests of science. For instance, he would
vote either for a Eadical or a Conservative without
sharing the opinions of either, but merely guided by
their scientific value.
At the beginning of his scientific career at Odessa
he led a very active campaign in favour of the teaching
of Natural Science. He urged that, in order to teach
properly, Natural History professors should them-
selves have made independent researches on living
fauna and flora, and tried to introduce a series of
measures to allow biologists special holidays and
missions to desirable places, at the proper seasons, for
research purposes. " There is no doubt," he said,
" that scientific activity would be much increased if
the proposed measures were adopted. Then, before
long, our young scientists would not need to go to
study in German universities, but could go abroad
already prepared to undertake independent research."
The Commission which examined his report demanded
certain modifications, " because of the Imperial in-
junction to be very strict in granting travelling
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 101
permits to professors. ' ' Metchnikoff somewhat altered
the text, which, after being adopted by the University
Council, was rejected by the Ministry and remained
without effect. Thus was every independent sugges-
tion stifled, even when it had but a purely scientific
Soon the situation of the Odessa University became
even more difficult. Between 1875 and 1880 reaction
increased considerably, and the inner life of the
University became very unfavourable to any scientific
activity. Already before that it was teeming with
intrigues, the Professors of Ukrainian origin being
hostile to the " Muscovites." Yet it was still pos-
sible to remain apart from these local intrigues, until
political reaction, filtering into the University, created
in it the deepest divisions. The hostility of parties
was now based on political opinions, either " Reac-
tionary " or " Liberal." The students were being
more and more carried away by this movement and
no longer took any interest in their studies.
All these conditions made normal teaching and
scientific work impossible, and Metchnikoff, seeing that
politics from above and from below now swallowed
up everything, tried to take refuge in his laboratory,
but in vain ; even there he could no longer find the
necessary calm, and only during the holidays could
he really work.
Thus passed the years until March 1, 1881, when
the crime which ended the days of Alexander II.
was followed by a great reactionary movement. The
authorities, seeing conspiracies and plots everywhere,
persecuted without cause all the elements which were
ticketed as " dangerous." Though the University
still preserved its autonomy, this was entirely fictitious,
102 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
for the Ministry thwarted every desire for indepen-
dence ; the nomination of professors elected by the
University Council was only ratified by the Ministry
if they were reactionaries, without any regard for
their scientific value. Soon the Chairs were occupied
by ignorant men of doubtful morality.
The life and honour of the University became
endangered, and Metchnikofi found himself obliged
to take part in the struggle ; he did so with vehem-
ence and energy ; the independence of the University
was involved, and, as long as he could hope to save it,
he struggled. At the meetings of the Council and
of the Faculty he never failed to give vent to his
critical opinions with a vehement frankness which
earned him in the University the reputation of an
" enfant terrible" In the meanwhile every resolution
passed by the Council, if not reactionary in character,
was systematically quashed by the Ministry, which
thus paralysed every means of action, and Metchni-
koff found himself faced with the alternative of sub-
mitting or handing in his resignation. He decided for
the latter: his convictions were involved, and more-
over his health could not withstand the continual
agitation and strain on his nerves.
As we could not afford to live in independence, he
applied for a vacant post of entomologist in the
zemstvo 1 of Poltava, and at the same time wrote out
his resignation, holding it in readiness for an oppor-
tunity which was not long in coming.
The Conservative party in the Faculty arose against
a Liberal professor who had accepted a very clever
thesis in which the Reactionaries perceived Socialist
tendencies. The Dean of the Faculty proposed that
1 Rural administration.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 103
all such theses should be refused, and the Faculty
approved. This was the signal for a storm in the
University, the Dean was hooted by the students, and
many of them were threatened with being expelled.
The Curator desired the more influential professors,
of whom Metchnikoff was one, to intervene with the
students in order to bring disorder to an end, and the
professors consented, on condition that the offending
Dean should resign. The Curator promised that
he should be asked to do so, and order was imme-
diately restored ; but the Dean remained and many
students were severely and unjustly punished. Metch-
nikoff thereupon produced his resignation, which was
promptly accepted, and thus his University career
came to an end.
Besides his University lectures, he gave public
lectures on Natural History which were attended by
a number of female students, for women at that time
were only admitted to the Faculty of Medicine, and
these lectures were extremely useful to them. Metch-
nikoff, though he did not believe that women could
accomplish creative work in science, was strongly
in favour of higher education for women, considering
it as necessary to their general intellectual develop-
ment. Genius, he thought, was peculiar to the male
sex, no woman having created anything " of genius "
even in domains which had always been accessible to
them, such as music, literature, and the applied arts.
The very rare exceptions, to his mind, only proved
the rule ; yet he did not draw the conclusion that
woman was in any sense inferior to man. He merely
held that her gifts are different from those of men.
Metchnikofl's health had been seriously shaken
104 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
by the emotions and annoyances of university life.
Already in 1877, after political intrigues at the
University, he had felt the first symptoms of cardiac
trouble, which were the beginning of a long period of
ill-health. He consulted Bamberger, a great Viennese
physician, who, however, found nothing serious, and
merely forbade him the use of wine and tobacco,
to neither of which was he addicted.
His health suffered further through the violent
anxiety which he went through in 1880 whilst I lay
dangerously ill with typhoid fever, contracted in
Naples. Though worn out with devoted nursing, he
tried to make up the time lost to research and over-
worked himself, with the result that cardiac trouble
was followed by fits of giddiness and unconquerable
insomnia. He fell into such a state of neurasthenia
that, in 1881, he resolved in a moment of depression
to do away with his life.
In order to spare his family the sorrow of an obvious
suicide, he inoculated himself with relapsing fever,
choosing this disease in order to ascertain at the same
time whether it could be inoculated through the
blood. The answer was in the affirmative : he became
very seriously ill. His condition was aggravated by
anxiety concerning the University ; for he was suffi-
ciently conscious to be aware of the events which were
taking place in Russia. The murder of Alexander II.
caused him to foresee a political reaction of the most
terrible type ; already, a reactionary Rector had been
appointed. Metchnikoff developed intense jaundice
and had a serious relapse with alarming cardiac weak-
ness; during the crisis he had a very distinct prevision
of approaching death. This semi-conscious state
was accompanied by a feeling of great happiness ;
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 105
he imagined that he had solved all human ethical
questions. Much later, this fact led him to suppose
that death could actually be attended by agreeable
His robust nature, however, triumphed over all
these grave complications, and, during his convales-
cence, he was rilled with a joy of living such as he
had never experienced before ; from that moment his
moral and physical balance was completely restored.
There was one unpleasant sequel to his illness, an
acute affection of the sight (choroiditis), but it for-
tunately disappeared without leaving any traces, and,
in fact, he never suffered again from his eyes, in spite
of his constant use of the microscope.
After his recovery he had a renascence of vital
intensity ; the life instinct developed in him in a high
degree ; his health became flourishing, his energy and
power for work greater than ever, and the pessim-
ism of his youth began to pale before the optimistic
dawn of his maturity. However, the relapsing fever
had very probably increased, if not started, the cardiac
trouble which eventually caused his death.
During the time when Metchnikoff was forbidden
the use of the microscope on account of his eye weak-
ness, he studied Ephemeridse from the point of view of
natural selection. He wished to elucidate the manner
in which this selection operates during the very short
life of those insects : the rudimentary structure of
their buccal organs does not allow them to feed
themselves, and they have no time to adapt them-
selves to external conditions.
During the 1875 holidays, at Gmunden and on the
Danube, he observed the nuptial flight of the may-
flies, a phenomenon which constitutes their short
106 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
adult existence, preceded by a long period in the
larval state. Thousands of these diaphanous, ephe-
meral insects swarm above the water in a compact
cloud ; now and then, dead Ephemeridae fall like
snow-flakes, and that is the final and tragic completion
of the nuptial flight. MetchnikofE wished to unveil the
mechanism of this sudden death, evidently due to
a physiological cause ; but he obtained no definite
results either that year or the following, when he
continued his observations in the Caucasus. He
realised that the life of these insects was too short to
allow him to solve the problems which interested him,
and, his eyes now being cured, he went back to his
studies on the origin of multicellular beings or metazoa.
He studied the development of inferior sponges
and ascertained that they possess the three embry-
onic layers which correspond to those of other animal
types, but that these layers have not the same degree
of independence or differentiation. He found that
in certain inferior sponges the mesoderm develops
before the endoderm and gives birth to it. These two
layers, born one from the other, manifest common
primordial characters. Therefore he was in no wise
surprised to discover that, in these inferior sponges,
the amoeboid and mobile cells of the mesoderm fulfil
digestive functions equally with, and even more than
those of the endoderm; in fact, with primitive beings,
functional characters are not more strictly delimit-
ated than morphological characters. It is only a
more advanced differentiation which separates them.
He connected these new facts with that which he
had observed in 1865 in one of the lower worms, the
earth planarian Geodesmus bilineatus. This worm is
actually without a digestive cavity, for the latter is
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 107
entirely filled by parenchymatous cells inside which
digestion takes place.
By their primitive structure, lower sponges and
worms come near the higher Infusoria, to which they
are even more closely related by this intercellular
digestion which is common to them.
This led Metchnikoff to ask himself whether this
was not, generally speaking, the primitive mode of
digestion. He carried out numerous researches on
this point during the following years, and found the
same intercellular digestion in other lower worms,
such as the Mesostoma and aquatic planarians, and
afterwards in some lower Coelentera and some Echino-
derma. He was thus enabled to establish definitely
that the primitive mode of digestion was really inter-
cellular, for the lower multicellular animals either do
not possess any digestive cavity or else their digestive
cavity develops late, as for instance with lower jelly-
fish or with hydropolypi. Even when the cavity is
developed in these inferior animals, the digestive
functions are fulfilled by the mesodermic cells.
The question as to what are the ancestral forms of
multicellular animals cannot be solved through direct
observation, for there is a lacuna between them and
unicellular beings, a lacuna which is due to the dis-
appearance of intermediary forms. It can only be
filled by hypotheses, based upon the embryology of
those animals which, in their embryonic development,
repeat the inferior forms from which they are derived,
thus reflecting the general evolution of living beings.
It was therefore to the embryology of lower multi-
cellular beings that Metchnikoff turned, in order to
endeavour to reconstitute their origin and to show the
link between them and unicellular beings.
108 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
We know that the ovule or primitive genital cell
of every animal may be compared to a unicellular
organism. After fertilisation the egg undergoes con-
secutive divisions or segmentation ; each segment
constitutes a new cell, and their aggregation forms a
hollow sphere called a blastula, which is similar to a
colony of unicellular beings. The blastula differenti-
ates itself into embryonic layers, the ectoderm, endo-
derm, and mesoderm already mentioned.
In the majority of animals the origin of the first
two layers, ectoderm and endoderm, is due to the
invagination of one of the poles of the blastula ; the
invaginated part of the walls forms the internal layer,
the endoderm, and lines the cavity produced by
invagination ; this cavity thus becomes a digestive
cavity. This stage of development, called gastrula,
is similar to a cup with a double wall, of which
the outer is the ectoderm and the inner the endo-
This stage, discovered by Kovalevsky, is to be
found in the evolution of most animals and corre-
sponds to the adult stage of some of them. It was
consequently considered as the primitive type of multi-
Haeckel founded thereupon his theory of the
gastrcea, according to which the common ancestor
of animals was a lower animal, now disappeared,
and similar to that stage of development. He
therefore gave to this hypothetical animal the name
Metchnikoff, however, discovered among primitive
multicellular animals, such as sponges, hydroids, and
lower medusae, a stage of development still more
simple than the gastrula ; this stage is without a
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 109
digestive cavity and only assumes the gastrula form
in its ulterior evolution. He also made the remark-
able discovery that, in the most primitive multi-
cellular animals, the endoderm is formed, not by means
of invagination, but by the migration of a number of
flagellated cells from one pole of the wall of the
blastula into the central cavity. These cells draw in
their flagellum, become amoeboid and mobile, multiply
by division, fill the cavity of the blastula, and become
capable of digesting. They originate the digestive
cells of the complete organism and give birth to the
mesoderm, which explains how the latter comes to
contain a number of devouring cells even though
these do not constitute digestive organs properly
so called. Metchnikoff gave to that stage the name
of 'parenchymella, for the migrating cells constitute
the endoderm in the condition of a parenchyma.
The invariable presence of this stage in the simplest
multicellular animals, the primitive amoeboid state
of the endodermic cells, cases of ulterior transforma-
tion of the parenchymella into the gastrula form in
certain animals, the absence of a differentiated
digestive cavity, all that proved, according to
Metchnikoff , that the parenchymella is more primitive
than the gastrula, and is therefore entitled to be con-
sidered the prototype of multicellular beings.
He saw a confirmation of this in the fact that
primitive adult animals also have no digestive cavity
but merely an intracellular digestion (sponges, tur-
He concluded that the common ancestor of
multicellular beings was a being constituted by an
agglomeration of cells without a digestive cavity, but
endowed with intracellular digestion, like that of the
110 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
" parenchymula " stage of development. He therefore
gave to that hypothetical ancestor the name of
Later, in 1886, he definitely formulated his theory
of the genesis of multicellular beings, and having
already stated the phagocyte theory, he substituted
for the name parenchymella that of phagocytella, which
indicated at the same time the primitive mode of
digestion of that hypothetical ancestor.
Reduced to its simplest form, it presented, accord-
ing to Metchnikoff, a certain analogy with a colony
composed of unicellular beings of two kinds : the
first, flagellated, forming the external layer, and the
others, amoeboid, occupying the centre of the colony
and capable of digesting.
It may be interesting to mention here that, in this
hypothetical description, Metchnikoff foresaw the
existence of similar, but real, beings discovered a year
later by Saville Kent, namely, the flagellated colonies
Thus the link between the unicellular and the
multicellular beings could be constituted through the
intermediary of flagellated colonies on the one hand
and, on the other hand, of beings similar to a phago-
cytella. The indivisible colony became the muUi-
While studying the genealogy of beings, Metch-
nikoff continued his researches on intracellular diges-
tion. In 1879, at Naples and at Messina, he was
able to establish the fact that the mesodermic cells
of many larvae of Echinodermata and Ccelenterata,
endowed with a digestive tube, nevertheless contained
strange bodies. Therefore, even complicated organ-
isms with a differentiated digestive system could still
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 111
contain at the same time some primitive cells with
an autonomous digestion.
All these researches on the unity of the origin of
multicellular beings and their morphological elements,
and also those concerning intracellular digestion, were
gradually preparing Metchnikofl's mind for the con-
ception of the phagocyte theory.
We spent the summer of 1880 with my family in
the country. The cereals were invaded by a harmful
beetle, the Anisoplia austriaca, which was devastat-
ing the country. MetchnikofE took the study of this
scourge to heart and tried to find a remedy. He
had, the preceding year, observed a dead fly enveloped
with a sort of fungus which had evidently been the
cause of its death. Hence he conceived the idea that
it might be possible to combat harmful insects by
provoking epidemics among them. He now returned
to this idea ; on dead bodies of Anisoplia he found
a small fungus, the muscardine, which was invading
the insects by means of filaments, and he succeeded
in infecting healthy beetles.
At first he confined himself to laboratory experi-
ments ; then a great landowner, Count Bobrinsky,
placed experimental fields at his disposal. As the
acquired results were very encouraging, Metchnikofi,
forced to leave the neighbourhood, left a young
entomologist in charge of the application of his
method. So far as he himself was concerned, this
study proved the starting-point of his researches on
Death of his father- and mother-in-law Management of country estates
Agitation and difficulties Departure for Messina with young
brothers- and sisters-in-law.
IN the spring of 1881, Metchnikoff having recovered
from relapsing fever, we went to stay with my parents
at KiefE and found my father dying. He entrusted
Elie with the care of the family, and they came to
live with us at Odessa. But, the following year, we
had the misfortune to lose my mother also. From
that moment my husband took upon himself the
responsibility of the whole family.
Our resources came from landed property, and he,
who had never concerned himself with rural questions,
had to make himself acquainted with them. In this
he was greatly helped by a neighbour, Count Bobrinsky,
through whose influence he came to abandon the purely
theoretical opinions he had hitherto held concerning
agrarian questions. He had considered communal pro-
perty as a desirable agrarian system : Count Bobrinsky
showed him that it was not so, at any rate in Little
Metchnikoff came to the country with the keenest
desire to make himself useful. First of all he devoted
the gratuity which he had received on leaving the
University, to a school which my sister and myself
desired to open in our family property. But we were
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 113
met by administrative opposition which nearly
wrecked our plan, under the pretext that it was
intended for political propaganda. And though
cordial relations were established from the first
between Metchnikofi and the peasantry, many com-
plications were unavoidable, due to the general
agrarian situation, to the insufficiency of the peasants'
allotments, and to their primitive methods of culti-
My father, whose property was in the province of
Kiefi, had inherited another domain in that of
Kherson ; Metchnikofi therefore had to manage both
estates and to adapt himself to their very different
respective circumstances. The majority of the farmers
in Little Kussia at that time were Jews and were
beginning to be persecuted both by the Government
and by the peasants ; Elie was constantly obliged to
intervene. In the province of Kherson, it was a
tradition with the peasants that the land should
belong to them, and they imagined that this could
be brought about by the simple elimination of the
farmers. Therefore they inflicted constant vexations
upon the latter, allowing cattle to pasture in their
crops, pulling up their beetroots, etc. Metchnikofi
attempted in vain to re-establish peace by means of
compromise ; he persuaded a farmer to sub-let part
of the land to the peasants, but this had to be given
up, for the latter did not carry out their engagements.
Relations between the farmers and the peasants were
getting worse and worse, and Metchnikofi, foreseeing
a catastrophe, warned the local administration that
the situation was getting very grave and would lead
to irreparable consequences. He was merely told that
preventive measures would be useless ; hereupon the
114 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
peasants brutally murdered a keeper who was turning
the cattle away from the crops. Then at last the
administration awoke, arrested the murderers, and
twelve men were exiled to Siberia.
All this caused Metchnikoff the deepest anxiety,
the more so that he was absolutely incapable of
altering the situation. As soon as it became possible,
he sold to the peasants that portion of the land which
belonged to us personally ; until then, the property
had been common to the whole family, of which the
younger members were not yet of age. This, however,
was not a general solution, and these moral pre-
occupations, as well as the heavy responsibility in-
cumbent upon him, kept him from his scientific work.
He was therefore very pleased to hand over the
management of the property to one of my brothers
who had just completed his studies in a Higher
Agricultural School, and, in spite of difficult condi-
tions, Elie had the satisfaction of giving up every-
thing in good order.
Thanks to my parents' inheritance, he was able
to abandon his share of the Panassovka patrimony
to the children of his brother and to live henceforth
independently. He wished to pursue researches on
the shores of the Mediterranean : therefore, in the
autumn of the year 1882, we went to Messina with
my two sisters and my three young brothers. The
children were no trouble to Elie, who loved them ;
on the contrary, he enjoyed organising the journey
and arranging all sorts of pleasures for them. The
children, accustomed to his kindly indulgence, always
came to " the Prophet " for everything they wanted. 1
1 " Elie " is the French form of Elijah, in Russian Ilia, and was ulti-
mately adopted by Metchnikoff.
Messina Inception of the phagocyte theory Encouragement from
Virchow and Kleinenberg First paper on phagocytosis at the
Odessa Congress in 1883 The question of Immunity Article in
Virchow's Archiv, 1884.
AT Messina, we settled in a suburb, the Ringo, on the
quay of the Straits, in a small flat with a garden and
a splendid view over the sea. We did not have
much room, and the laboratory had to be installed in
the drawing-room, but, on the other hand, Elie only
had to cross the quay in order to find the fisherman
who provided him with the material needed for his
researches and with whom we frequently went sailing.
Metchnikofi loved Messina, with its rich marine
fauna and beautiful scenery. The splendid view of
the sea and the calm outline of the Calabrian coast
across the Straits delighted him. He enjoyed it all
the more after the many excitements of life at the
University, and eagerly gave himself up to his
researches. Often, in later years, he delighted to
recall memories of that period, the more so that this
was connected with the principal phase of scientific
activity which led to the formation of his phagocyte
theory. After the earthquake in 1908, he wrote a
few pages on Messina and ended his article by the
following lines :
Thus it was in Messina that the great event of my
scientific life took place. A zoologist until then, I suddenly
116 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
became a pathologist. I entered into a new road in which
my later activity was to be exerted.
It is with warm feeling that I evoke that distant past
and with tenderness that I think of Messina, of which the
terrible fate has deeply moved my heart.
They say that Messina will be rebuilt in the same place
but in a different way. Houses will be constructed of light
materials, they will be low, and the streets broad. . . .
The town will be a new Messina, not " my Messina," not
that with which so many dear memories are associated in
my mind, . . .
Metchnikoff continued to study intracellular diges-
tion and the origin of the intestine. He foresaw
that the solution of those problems would lead to
general results of great importance. The study of
medusae and of their mesodermic digestion confirmed
him more and more in the conviction that the meso-
derm was a vestige of elements with a primitive
digestive function. In lower beings, such as sponges,
this function takes place without being differentiated,
whilst with other Ccelentera and with some Echino-
derma the endoderm gives birth to a digestive
cavity ; yet, the mobile cells of the mesoderm pre-
serve their faculty of intracellular digestion. As he
studied these phenomena more closely, he ascertained
that mesodermic cells accumulated around grains of
carmine introduced into the organism.
All this prepared the ground for the phagocyte
theory, of which lie himself described the inception
in the following words :
I was resting from the shock of the events which provoked
my resignation from the University and indulging enthusi-
astically in researches in the splendid setting of the Straits
One day when the whole family had gone to a circus to see
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 117
some extraordinary performing apes, I remained alone with
my microscope, observing the life in the mobile cells of a
transparent star-fish larva, when a new thought suddenly
flashed across my brain. It struck me that similar cells
might serve in the defence of the organism against intruders.
Feeling that there was in this something of surpassing interest,
I felt so excited that I began striding up and down the room
and even went to the seashore in order to collect my thoughts.
I said to myself that, if my supposition was true, a splinter
introduced into the body of a star-fish larva, devoid of blood-
vessels or of a nervous system, should soon be surrounded by
mobile cells as is to be observed in a man who runs a splinter
into his finger. This was no sooner said than done.
There was a small garden to our dwelling, in which we had
a few days previously organised a " Christmas tree " for the
children on a little tangerine tree ; I fetched from it a few
rose thorns and introduced them at once under the skin of
some beautiful star-fish larvae as transparent as water.
I was too excited to sleep that night in the expectation of
the result of my experiment, and very early the next morning
I ascertained that it had fully succeeded.
That experiment formed the basis of the phagocyte theory,
to the development of which I devoted the next twenty-five
years of my life.
This very simple experiment struck Metchnikoff
by its intimate similarity with the phenomenon which
takes place in the formation of pus, the diapedesis x
of inflammation in man and the higher animals. The
white blood corpuscles, or leucocytes, which consti-
tute pus, are mobile mesodermic cells. But, while
with higher animals the phenomenon is complicated
by the existence of blood-vessels and a nervous
system, in a star-fish larva, devoid of those organs,
the same phenomenon is reduced to the accumulation
1 Migration of the white blood corpuscles (leucocytes) through the walls
118 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
of mobile cells around the splinter. This proves that
the essence of inflammation consists in the reaction
of the mobile cells, whilst vascular and nervous inter-
vention has but a secondary significance. Therefore,
if the phenomenon is considered in its simplest expres-
sion, inflammation is merely a reaction of the meso-
dermic cells against an external agent.
MetchnikofE then reasoned as follows : In man,
microbes are usually the cause which provokes in-
flammation; therefore it is against those intruders
that the mobile mesodermic cells have to strive.
These mobile cells must destroy the microbes by
digesting them and thus bring about a cure.
Inflammation is thus a curative reaction of the
organism, and morbid symptoms are no other than
the signs of the struggle between the mesodermic
cells and the microbes.
In order to verify these conjectures, he started
studying the englobing of microbes by mesodermic
cells in larvae and in other marine invertebrates
which he inoculated.
At that time, a well-known German scientist,
Kleinenberg, was Professor of Zoology at Messina.
Metchnikoff imparted his ideas to him and showed
him his experiments. Kleinenberg encouraged him
very much ; he looked upon his theory as " an
Hippocratic thought " and advised him to publish
it at once.
Metchnikoff was also greatly encouraged by
Virchow, who happened to pass through Messina and
came to see his preparations and his experiments,
which seemed to him conclusive. However, Virchow
advised him to proceed with the greatest prudence
in their interpretation, as, he said, the theory of
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 119
inflammation admitted in contemporary medicine was
exactly contrary to MetchnikoS's. It was believed
that the leucocytes, far from destroying microbes,
spread them by carrying them and by forming a
medium favourable to their growth.
Metchnikofi always preserved a deep gratitude
towards Virchow and Kleinenberg for the moral
support which they gave him at that time.
When the hot weather came, we left Messina for
Biva, a delicious summer resort on the shores of the
Lake of Garda. There, Metchnikofi wrote his first
memoir on the reaction of inflammation and on the
digestion of microbes by the mesodermic cells of
lower invertebrates. On the way back to Kussia
through Vienna, he went to see the Professor of
Zoology, Glaus ; he found other colleagues with him
and expounded his theory to them. They were much
interested, and he asked them for a Greek translation
of the words " devouring cells," and that is how they
were given the name of phagocytes.
Glaus asked him for his memoir for the Review
which he edited and in which it appeared soon after-
wards, in 1883. 1 The new-born " phagocyte theory "
was thus very well received by naturalists and by
Virchow, the father of cellular pathology.
Having returned to Russia, we went to the country,
where Elie had to attend to family business ; never-
theless, he continued his researches in every leisure
moment. He had observed in Echinoderma that,
during the transformation of their larvae, the parts
becoming atrophied were englobed by mesodermic
1 Arbeiten des zool Inst. zu Wien, Bd. v. Heft ii. p. 141. "Unter-
suchung iiber die intracellulare Verdauung bei wirbellosen Tieren," E.
120 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
mobile cells. In those observations he was delighted
to have found an example of physiological inflam-
mation, i.e. one which presented itself in normal and
non-morbid conditions. He thought he might observe
it also during the metamorphosis of the tadpole into
a frog, whilst the tail was being atrophied. But he
found that, instead of the leucocytes of the blood,
certain cells from the muscular tissue were those which
devoured the enfeebled elements of the tail ; he thus
learnt that phagocytes might be, not only the white
blood corpuscles, but other cells of mesodermic origin. 1
In autumn 1883 he read his first paper on phago-
cytosis to a congress of physicians and naturalists at
Odessa. 2 He compared the phagocytes to an army
hurling itself upon the enemy and looked upon the
phagocytic reaction as a defensive force of the
In that paper itself and from that moment onwards,
the trend of his ideas towards optimism becomes visible.
By discovering the phagocytic reaction of the organ-
ism, he made a first breach in his philosophy of human
nature, hitherto so pessimistic ; he discovered within
it a salutary element which could be utilised by
science to combat its discords. He began to have
some faith in the power of knowledge, not only for
this struggle, but also for the establishment of a
rational conception of life in general. Thus he said
in his paper to the Odessa Congress :
The theoretical study of Natural History problems (in
the largest sense of the word) alone can provide a critical
1 It was only in 1892 that he completed and developed his observations.
He found that the cells of the sarcoplasma of the muscular tissue devoured
its contractile part, the myoplasma.
2 This paper was entitled " Forces curatives de 1'organisme."
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 121
method for the comprehension of truth and lead to a definite
conception of life, or at least allow ua to approach one.
And yet, until then, the theory of phagocytosis
as a curative force of the organism was but a hypo-
thesis, for he had not yet observed spontaneous
phagocytosis in diseases and did not know pathogenic
microbes. He therefore sought to study them in lower
animals, whose simple structure made the observa-
tion easier. He found some small, transparent, fresh-
water crustaceans, called daphnice, which were diseased
and easy to place alive under a microscope. These
crustaceans are often infected by a parasite fungus
(Monospora bicuspidata), of which the spores, shaped
like sharp needles, are introduced with food into the
digestive tube, traverse the walls of it, and thus
penetrate into the general cavity of the body. They
are immediately attacked by mobile phagocytes,
which either singly or in groups englobe them ; if the
phagocytes succeed in digesting the spores, the
daphnia recovers ; in the contrary case, the spores
germinate and develop into small fungi which invade
the organism and kill it. The recovery or death of
the daphnia depends therefore on the issue of the
struggle. 1 This observation gave final confirmation
to the hypothesis of the curative forces of the organism.
Metchnikoff was not content with observing lower
animals but wished to study the reaction of the
organism of mammals in infectious diseases. At that
time, the best-known microbe was the bacillus of
anthrax. He therefore chose that for his researches
and ascertained that phagocytosis varied with the
virulence of the microbes ; thus, while phagocytes did
1 Virchow's Archiv, vol. 96, p. 177.
122 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
not attack virulent bacteria, they attacked and
rapidly digested attenuated bacteria. Moreover, he
observed a very active phagocytosis in refractory
animals and the reverse in sensitive ones.
He thus came face to face with the question of
He approached it by a comparative examination
of the reaction of the organism of vaccinated rabbits
and of non- vaccinated ones, and ascertained that an
active phagocytosis was only manifested in a pre-
viously vaccinated organism. Metchnikoff explained
these facts by the theory that the phagocytes became
accustomed, gradually, through vaccination, to strive
against more and more virulent microbes.
From that moment, immunity appeared to him as
being no other than this progressive hardening. He
published his researches in 1884 in Virchow's Archiv,
and impatiently awaited medical reviews, hoping to
find some answer, but the memoir passed unnoticed ;
the full significance of it had not been grasped.
Ill-health of his wife and sister-in-law Journey to Tangiers through
Spain Villefranche Baumgarten criticises the phagocyte theory.
IN 1884, Metchnikofl's work was interrupted by the
ill-health of my eldest sister and of myself ; physicians
considered that we had weak lungs and advised that
we should spend the winter in the South. Elie, full
of anxiety, hastened to take us there.
My younger brothers were now old enough to
remain at school in our absence so as to go on with
their studies ; we therefore started with my two
sisters. As cholera was raging in Italy, we went to
Spain, hoping to find a place with a mild climate and
conditions favourable to my husband's work. But
we traversed the whole country without finding the
right combination, and, as we had come too far to
go back, we decided to spend the winter on the
African coast, at Tangiers, close to Gibraltar where we
Metchnikofi had not much taste for sight-seeing,
but, with his inquisitive and observing mind, liked to
understand what he saw, and never failed to acquaint
himself with the history of the countries which we
traversed and which, with his ever-ready solicitude, he
wanted us to see. We therefore saw every interesting
town on our route through Spain. In the evenings we
read together works on the history and art of the
124 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
country, and in the day-time we went for long rambles
in order to examine all that there was to see. The
history of the country, full of the sombre fanaticism
which is reflected in its art, the austere aridity of the
central plateau of the land, the reserved temper of
the population none of that found any echo in the
vibrating, sunlight-loving soul of Metchnikoff.
Gentle Italy, her exuberant life and highly-cultured
past, charmed him much more. He was conse-
quently better pleased with Southern Spain, which
is more similar to Italy. He was greatly impressed
by the grandiose site and luminous atmosphere of
Granada and the Alhambra and by the superb gardens
of Malaga, with their tropical plants and avenues of
At Gibraltar, he was greatly interested as a zoo-
logist in the only monkeys (Macaques or Barbary
apes) which have remained wild in Europe ; he never
tired of watching their habits whilst those amusing
creatures jumped from tree to tree above our heads.
He had ample leisure to do so, fora frightful tempest
kept us at Gibraltar, preventing the crossing of the
Straits. As Metchnikoff was very anxious to set to
work, we took the first steamship which ventured out,
but the sea was still running so high that our ship
was damaged and we had to go back. A panic
took possession of the passengers, during which my
sisters and I were struck by the calmness of Elie,
who did not seem to realise the danger. After a delay
of a few days, we were at last able to cross.
Our first impression of Tangiers, an Arab port of
a thoroughly Oriental type, was extremely vivid.
The city lay before us with its tall minarets and flat
roofs, shining white under the burning sun. The
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 125
steamer dropped anchor some distance from the land-
ing stage, and we were taken ashore on small boats,
immediately to be surrounded by a motley crowd with
faces varying from the pale olive of the pure Arab
to the coal-black of the negro. All these people, in
brilliant and picturesque garments, were shouting,
gesticulating, fighting for the possession of passengers
and their luggage, dragging them into the boats or
carrying them on their backs, themselves standing
up to their waists in water.
That feverish agitation, noise, and glaring sun-
light introduced us suddenly to new and violent
Already at Gibraltar, Metchnikoff had made
arrangements with a Spanish-speaking Arab from
Tangiers who undertook our installation. He provided
us with a very primitive dwelling, himself serving as
our guide, cook, and general factotum.
We hastened to look for zoological material :
alas, the sea was almost a desert. After a long
search we only found a few rare sea-urchins, and
Metchnikofi had to content himself with this meagre
fauna during the whole of the winter. He resigned
himself to the study of the embryology of sea-urchins
in order to fill a few lacunae in his previous researches.
As he could not work much for lack of materials, he
came with us for long excursions, during which he
used to improvise interminable and very amusing
tales with which to entertain my little sister.
At the beginning of our stay we were greatly
interested by the life and customs of the country.
The picturesque and varied crowd, the dignified and
biblical types of Arabs, the bronzed Berbers, negroes,
fanatical sects of Aissawas, snake-charmers, the jousts,
126 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
and mad races of cavalry across the sandy beach;
opium smokers ; mysterious silhouettes of veiled
women; the call to prayer from the tall minarets
all that strange and exotic life fascinated us.
But after a time the wild customs, continual shout-
ing on the occasion of every ceremony, vendettas,
cruel fanaticism, and also the absolute lack of in-
tellectual resources, began to tell on our nerves.
Inactivity weighed heavily upon Metchnikoff ; never-
theless, he bore his ill-luck with his usual courage
and gaiety, finding great consolation in the excellent
influence that the climate of Tangiers had upon all
At last, in the spring, we started for Villefranche,
where he immediately set to work with success upon
the embryology of jelly-fish ; an important mono-
graph on that subject was published by him in 1886.
In it he gave definite form to his theory of the phago-
cytella and the genetic relationships of animals and
of their primitive organs, a theory already mentioned
above (p. 110).
From Villefranche we went to Trieste, where
Metchnikoff studied star-fish and filled the lacunae in
his researches on the origin of the mesoderm.
In a medical review which he read at Trieste, he
found the first account of his phagocyte theory ;
it was an unfavourable and hostile criticism by a
German scientist of the name of Baumgarten, en-
deavouring to prove that Metchnikofi's deductions
were inadmissible. This grieved and pained him very
much, but he immediately recovered himself and
strongly determined to study the medical side of the
question in order to prove on that ground that his
theory was well-founded.
A Bacteriological Institute in Odessa Unsatisfactory conditions
Experiments on erysipelas and on relapsing fever.
THE results of Pasteur's antirabic inoculations were
published in 1885. The Municipality of Odessa,
desirous of founding a bacteriological station in that
town, sent Dr. Gamaleia to Paris to study the new
method. Metchnikofi was appointed Scientific Direc-
tor of the new institution, and Drs. Gamaleia and
Bardach, former pupils of his, were entrusted with the
preparation of vaccines and preventive inoculations.
The Institute, opened in 1886, was founded at the
expense of the Municipality of Odessa and of the
Zemstvo of the Kherson Province.
Metchnikofi himself describes as follows the short
time he spent in that Institute :
. . . Having given up my State work, I placed myself
at the service of the city and the Zemstvo.
Absorbed as I was by the scientific part of the work, I
confided to my young colleagues the practical part, i.e. the
vaccinations and the perfection of vaccines.
It was to be supposed that all would go very well.
Work hi the new Institute began with ardour. But, very
soon, a strong opposition manifested itself against it.
The medical administration began to make incursions into
the Institute, with a view to finding some infractions of the
Medical society was hostile to every work which issued
128 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
from the laboratory. The institutions which had subscribed
funds for the Institute were demanding practical results,
while all necessary work towards that object was met by
every sort of obstacle.
For instance, in order to destroy certain voles, very
harmful to the cereals of Southern Russia, we proposed to
make experiments as to infecting those rodents with the
microbe of chicken cholera. Laboratory experiments were
begun with that object. But, one day, I received an order from
the Prefect peremptorily forbidding those experiments. This
measure had been taken at the instigation of local physicians ;
having seen in a Petersburg newspaper an article by some
one who had not a notion of bacteriology, they had assured
the Prefect that chicken cholera could turn into Asiatic cholera.
I had to appeal to the General Governor, who ended by
countermanding the Prefect's order ; nevertheless this incident
was not without regrettable consequences concerning the
ulterior activities of the Institute.
Apart from all that, a deep scission took place between the
members, though they were so few, of the Institute itself, and
this had fatal consequences.
The men who were in charge of the practical work ceased
to work in concert ; I could not take their place, being over-
whelmed with scientific researches, besides which, holding no
medical degree, I was not qualified to perform vaccinations
on human beings.
Under those conditions, I understood that in my quality
as a theoretician, I should do well to retire, leaving the
laboratory to practitioners who, bearing full responsibility,
would fill the part better.
During his stay at the Odessa Bacteriological
Institute, MetchnikofE had busied himself with infec-
tious diseases in order to answer the first objections
to his theory. He began by the microbes of erysipelas
and showed that the phenomena of the disease, as
well as those of recovery, were in full accord with
the postulates of the phagocyte theory.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 129
And then he studied relapsing fever in order to
answer Baumgarten's objections, affirming that there
was no phagocytic reaction in that disease, though it
almost invariably ended in recovery. Experiments
on man not being possible, Metchnikoff procured
some monkeys, which he inoculated with relapsing
fever, and ascertained that Baumgarten's error was
due to the fact that he had only looked for phago-
cytosis in the patient's blood, whilst it really took
place in the spleen.
These researches on erysipelas and relapsing fever
were published in Virchow's Archives in 1887. Besides
this scientific work, he was also giving lectures on
bacteriology to some physicians, and was in full pro-
ductive activity when external opposition and the
discord among his collaborators in the Institute itself
forced upon him the conviction that he could remain
there no longer.
At that very moment the Prince of Oldenburg,
having founded a Bacteriological Institute at Peters-
burg, invited Metchnikoff to take charge of it. He
had to refuse, fearing the Northern climate for my
health, and knowing from experience that it was
impossible for a layman to manage an Institute with
a medical staff. Yet he could not do without a
laboratory. Seeing no possibility of having one in
Russia, he decided to look abroad for a refuge and a
" Having learnt from experience at Odessa," he
wrote, " how difficult was the struggle against an
opposition coming from all sides and devoid of
reasonable causes, I preferred to go abroad to look
for a peaceful shelter for my scientific researches."
We were no longer held back by family considera-
130 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
tions ; our links with Russia had gradually loosened.
He had resigned from the University, discord reigned
at the Odessa Bacteriological Institute, conditions of
life in Russia were very unfavourable to scientific
activity ; in a word, " obstacles from above, from
below, and from all sides," as MetchnikofE expressed
it, gradually led to his resolution to leave his native
Hygiene Congress in Vienna Wiesbaden Munich Paris and Pasteur
Berlin and Koch Failure of anthrax vaccination of sheep
Decision to leave Russia.
IN 1887 we went to Vienna, where a Congress of
Hygienists was held, in which, for the first time,
bacteriologists took part. Metchnikofi thus had the
opportunity of becoming acquainted with many of
them and to make inquiries concerning bacteriological
laboratories. Professor Hueppe, of Wiesbaden, very
kindly invited him to come to work in his own. The
idea pleased Metchnikoff, who thought that a peaceful
little University town would be very favourable to
his work. But he found that his situation would be
very difficult at Wiesbaden on account of the lack of
harmony between the different laboratories in the
town ; he therefore gave up the project which had
seemed to him so tempting.
By this time many objections had been raised
against the phagocyte theory, and, Emmerich having
attacked him very violently, Metchnikofi went to
Munich to have an explanation with him. This gave
him the opportunity of realising that Munich, like
Wiesbaden, was not a place where he would care to
He had a great desire to know Pasteur and his
collaborators, who had just been playing such an
132 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
important scientific part, and, finding ourselves within
easy reach of Paris, we repaired thither, without the
slightest idea of settling there. This is how Metchni-
koff himself described his first interview with Pasteur :
On arriving at the laboratory destined for the antirabic
vaccinations, I saw an old man, rather undersized, with a
left hemiplegia, very piercing grey eyes, a short beard
and moustache and slightly grey hair, covered by a black
skull-cap. His pale and sickly complexion and tired look
betokened a man who was not likely to live many more years.
He received me very kindly, and immediately spoke to me of
the question which interested me most, the struggle of the
organism against microbes.
" I at once placed myself on your side," he told me, " for I
have for many years been struck by the struggle between
the divers micro-organisms which I have had occasion to
observe. I believe you are on the right road."
Pasteur at that time was chiefly occupied with
antirabic vaccinations and with the building of a
new Institute in the rue Dutot. Seeing the vast
dimensions of the edifice and learning that the
scientific staff was not large, Metchnikoff asked
Pasteur if he might hope to work in one of the labora-
tories in an honorary capacity. Pasteur not only
acceded to this request but offered him a whole
laboratory. He was most kind, invited us to his
home and introduced Metchnikoff to his collaborators,
who produced an excellent impression on my husband.
Though all this made him incline more and more
towards the Pasteur Institute, he still dreaded life
in a large and noisy city, thinking that a peaceful
little University town would be more favourable to
his work. Therefore, before making a final decision,
he desired to visit a few more bacteriological labora-
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 133
On our way back we passed through Berlin, where
Metchnikoff wished to see Professor Koch and to
show him some interesting specimens of phagocytosis.
The great savant received him very coldly. For a
long time, while examining specimens of the spleen in
relapsing fever, he refused to recognise in them an
example of phagocytosis. Though he was at last
obliged to bow to evidence, he yet remained unfavour-
able to the phagocyte theory, and all his assistants
followed his example. MetchnikoS was much sur-
prised and grieved by this hostility towards his
ideas, notwithstanding that they were based on well-
established facts. We hastened to leave Berlin.
Many years later, when phagocytosis was generally
admitted, even in Germany, Professor Koch and many
other German scientists welcomed Metchnikofl very
kindly, which somewhat counterbalanced the un-
pleasantness of early memories. But, at that time,
the contrast between our impression of Paris and of
Germany was so great that all hesitation was at an
end : the choice was made.
On returning to Odessa, Metchnikofi began to
prepare his resignation and his departure. Yet he
still had time to make some researches on phago-
cytosis in tuberculosis, in reply to the objections
which rained upon his theory.
In the spring, he handed over the direction of the
Institute to Dr. Gamaleia and took leave ; we went
to the country for a while before our final departure.
During that time, Drs. Gamaleia and Bardach were
majdng anthrax vaccinations on a large scale in a
vast private property in the province of Kherson.
When we were settled in our country home, Metch-
nikoff received a telegram announcing that the first
134 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
anthrax vaccine had killed many thousand sheep.
Though, as a matter of fact, his personal responsibility
was not involved, the blow was a terrible one; he
hastened back to Odessa to elucidate the cause of
the catastrophe. But it remained obscure. . . .
This painful episode was the last drop which made
the cup brim over ; it strengthened Metchnikoff in
his resolve to leave Russia.
The Pasteur Institute Dreams realised Metchnikoff at fifty Growing
optimism Attenuated sensitiveness The Sevres villa Daily
HAVING decided to settle in France, we hastened to
make ourselves acquainted with contemporary French
literature, thinking to find in it a reflection of the
soul and manners of the nation. But the realistic
literature of the time, in spite of the great artistic
worth of many of the authors, gave us an erroneous
idea of life in France, of which it represented but one
of many aspects. It was therefore with apprehension
that we asked ourselves if we should ever be able to
adapt ourselves to the new conditions, and whether
our isolation would not be great.
We arrived in Paris on the 15th of October 1888,
and we lodged at a small hotel in the Latin quarter,
not far from the rue d'Ulm where the old Pasteur
Institute stood, the new one not being completed.
There was but little room in the laboratory, and
Metchnikoff felt rather uneasy, fearing that he was
in the way. But the new Institute soon was suffi-
ciently advanced for him to settle there.
He was given two rooms on the second floor ; I
served as his assistant ; he was perfectly happy at
being at last able to give himself up in peace to his
work. Soon, young physicians came to work under
136 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
his direction. Their number having increased, he
was given a whole floor in which to instal them,
two rooms on that floor being reserved for his own
use. He occupied these rooms until the end of his
His dreams were at last realised. This is from
a narration of the causes which led to his departure
from Russia, in his own words :
Thus it was in Paris that I succeeded at last in practising
pure Science apart from all politics or any public function.
That dream could not have been realised in Eussia because
of obstacles from above, from below, and from all sides. One
might think that the hour of science in Russia has not yet
struck. I do not believe that. I think, on the contrary,
that scientific work is indispensable to Russia, and I wish from
my heart that future conditions may become more favour-
able than in the time of which I have spoken in the above
Soon he was able to appreciate the great French
qualities : humanitarian manners, tolerance, and gentle-
ness, real freedom of thought, loyal and courteous
intercourse, all of which made life easy and agreeable.
And most precious of all were the true friendships
which he contracted with his colleagues and his
pupils. Indeed the Institut Pasteur and France
became for him a second Motherland, and when in
later years he was invited to other countries with
more liberal conditions, he habitually replied that
only for one place would he leave the Pasteur Institute,
" the neighbouring cemetery of Montparnasse."
However, after his death, the Pasteur Institute
which he had so loved continued to give him hos-
pitality and harboured his ashes. . . .
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 137
Pasteur himself ever was most kind and helpful
to Metchnikofi. During the first years, when his
health still allowed it, he used often to come to the
laboratory, questioning Metchnikofi: on his researches
with much interest and always warmly encouraging
him. He even attended assiduously his course of
lectures on inflammation. After his state of health
no longer allowed him to go out, MetchnikofE used
to visit him every day, and tried to cheer him by
talking to him of current researches.
MM. Duclaux and Roux became his closest friends ;
they were at first brought together by scientific
interests and by questions concerning the Institute ;
but, gradually, personal sympathy grew up between
them, binding them by that solid bond which is made
up of daily occurrences, inducing respect, confidence,
and affection. Moreover, Metchnikoff felt the deepest
gratitude towards Pasteur and his collaborators, who
had given him the possibility of working in so favour-
able an atmosphere.
From the very first, Pasteur sympathised with the
phagocyte theory ; the other members of the Institute
thought it too biological, almost vitalistic. But when
they had made themselves thoroughly cognisant with
it, they also adopted it. Thus, having found in the
Pasteur Institute not only favourable working condi-
tions but also moral support, Metchnikofi: became
deeply attached to it, and the interests of " the House "
In 1915, on the occasion of MetchnikofTs seventieth
anniversary, M. Roux, in a Jubilee speech, gave of
him and of his work the following appreciation which
describes, better than anything I could say, what his
part was in the Pasteur Institute :
138 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
In Paris as in Petrograd, as in Odessa, you have become
a leader of thought, and you have kindled in this Institute a
scientific focus which has radiated afar.
Your laboratory is more alive than any in the house ;
workers come to it in crowds. There, the bacteriological
events of the day are discussed, interesting preparations
examined, ideas sought for that may help an experimenter
to solve difficulties in which he has become involved. It is
to you that one comes to ask for a control experiment on a
newly observed fact, for a criticism of a discovery that does
not always survive the test.
Moreover, as you read everything, every one comes to you
for information, for an account of a newly published memoir
which there is no time to read. It is much more convenient
than to consult the library and also much safer, for errors of
translation and interpretation are avoided.
Your erudition is so vast and so accurate that it is made
use of by the whole house. How many times have I not
availed myself of it ? One never fears to take advantage of
it, for no scientific question ever finds you indifferent. Your
ardour warms the indolent and gives confidence to the
You are an incomparable collaborator as I know, I who
have had the good fortune of being associated with your
researches on several occasions. Indeed, you did nearly all
the work !
More even than your science, your kindliness attracts ;
who amongst us has not experienced it ? I have had a
touching proof of it when, many times, you have nursed me
as if I were your own child. You are so happy in doing
good that you even feel gratitude towards those whom you
This is such an intimate gathering that I may be allowed
to say quite openly that it is so painful to you not to give
that you prefer being exploited rather than close your hand.
The Pasteur Institute owes you much ; you have brought
to it the prestige of your renown, and by your work and that
of your pupils you have greatly contributed to its glory. You
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 139
have given a noble example of disinterestedness by refusing
any salary in those years when the budget was balanced
with difficulty and by preferring to the glorious and lucrative
situations that were offered to you the modest life of this
house. Still a Russian by nationality, you have become
French by your choice, and you contracted a Franco-Russian
alliance with the Pasteur Institute long before the diplomats
thought of it.
At the beginning the members of the Pasteur
Institute were few, and the association bore a quasi-
family character, Pasteurians often being compared
with a monastic order, united by the worship of
science. The progressive growth of the Institute
inevitably destroyed its character of intimacy, but it
remained a precious scientific focus, and this is what
Metchnikofi said of it in 1913, apropos of the twenty-
fifth anniversary of its foundation :
If we weigh the for and against of the Pasteur Institute,
it is indisputable that the first surpasses the second by a
great deal. I do not think another institution exists that is
equally favourable to work. Innumerable proofs have been
adduced to attest this in the twenty-five years that our
House has existed.
It was especially the development of pure scientific
research in the Institute which interested Metchni-
kofi ; he continually considered means of contributing
towards it ; he thought it necessary to attract active
scientific forces regardless of their origin, to institute
generous scientific " scholarships," and to stimulate
by every means scientific activity and spirit.
As the rapid development of bacteriology necessi-
tated having recourse to chemistry, physics, and
physiology, he considered it indispensable to organise
collective work in which specialists in these divers
branches should take part, thus collaborating to the
140 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
solution of the same problem. Later he was able to
realise this project, up to a certain point, in his own
laboratory, when studying intestinal flora.
He thought it would be useful to extend this
method, as far as possible, to researches such as that
on tuberculosis and on cancer, such researches being
complicated and protracted and demanding co-ordinate
efforts and an organisation that should prevent the
repetition of individual first steps. A clinic attached
to the Pasteur Institute and adapted to scientific
researches seemed to him indispensable.
He also considered that the experimental study
of those human diseases which can only be inoculated
in anthropoid apes should be carried out through
the breeding of those animals in the colonies, for
infantile diseases demand very young apes as subjects
for experiments, and they cannot be brought to Europe
in sufficient numbers without great loss. A mission
of workers might carry out experiments on the spot.
He thought the popularisation of science a very
useful thing and wished the Pasteur Institute to
participate in it by appropriate courses of public
lectures. He attached great importance to the pene-
tration into ordinary life of results acquired by science,
for the struggle against disease consists chiefly in
prophylactic and hygienic measures which can only
be applied by a well-informed public. For that
reason he was always willing to be interviewed on
scientific questions by journalists and, indeed, by any
one, however ignorant. In order to instruct the public
he often wrote popular articles on questions of hygiene
Science in general never was a dead letter for him ;
'his most abstract conceptions were always narrowly
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 141
bound to life ; he saw one through the other and
considered that they should serve each other.
Apart from scientific researches, he took part in the
courses given at the Pasteur Institute. He prepared
his lectures with infinite care, and, in spite of his long
experience, he never could give them without some
nervousness, especially during the last years of his
life. He used even to write down the first sentences
and to read them out in order to give himself time to
recover ; but very soon his self-control would return,
and he would proceed with animation and lucidity ;
his lectures were living and suggestive.
I have mentioned above Roux's masterly appreci-
ation of his influence at the Pasteur Institute. The
following was written to me, a year after MetchnikofE's
death, by one of his closest disciples and collaborators,
and describes in a vivid manner the deep feelings
with which he inspired his pupils :
" You say that you love to think that he continues to live
in others. Could it have been otherwise ? A character as
powerful as his is capable of influencing and illuminating the
life, not of one individual, but of a whole generation. I look
upon it as the greatest good fortune of my life that I was
able to spend my best years in his orbit and to impregnate
my mind with his spirit, not his scientific spirit, but that
which he manifested in facing hie and humanity.
" This bond has become so much part of myself that my first
impulse is always to act in the way he would have approved.
I even feel the need to share with others what I received from
him. I do not know whether it will be given to me to solve
certain problems posed by him, but I have the conviction
that his spirit, in its purity, will be preserved among us. He
will ever live in those who worked by his side, and in those
who will come to work in his laboratory. It cannot be
142 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
Metchnikoff on his part never remained indifferent
to his pupils. His solicitude towards them was warm,
sometimes paternal, always ready and active. Many
of his pupils remained his friends and collaborators
for years afterwards. His fiery and exclusive tem-
perament, however, made him take up a very different
attitude in exceptional cases, when he found himself
in front of one who persisted in a path which Metchni-
koff himself considered the wrong path, or before an
action which he thought disloyal or work done with-
out conscience. Then he became beside himself, and
positively dangerous to those who had exposed them-
selves to the paroxysm of his indignation.
Fortunately such cases were rare ; as a general
rule, the atmosphere of his laboratory was impregnated
with scientific spirit and ardour ; all forces in it con-
verged towards the same goal, being bound together
by a community of aspirations and activity of which
he was the soul.
The first period of his life in France was taken up
by the strengthening and development of the phago-
cyte theory and by an eager struggle in its defence.
He displayed in it his full energy as a scientist and
a fighter, and this was perhaps the most agitated,
the most tense period of his life.
When at last his theory was securely established
and began to be accepted, he continued his researches
with the same passionate ardour but in an atmosphere
of peace. It was joy and bliss to him to be able to
work apart from other preoccupations, and the years
of his life between fifty and sixty were the happiest
he ever had.
The state of his soul and his ideas had considerably
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 143
evolved in the course of years ; the great moral and
physical sensitiveness which had so often made him
miserable in his youth had decreased and he had
become much less impulsive. Unpleasant sensations
no longer caused him so much suffering ; he could
bear the mewing of a cat or the barking of a dog ;
personal vexations no longer made him take such a
horror of life as to wish to be rid of it : he now merely
tried to conquer them.
At first this change operated less upon his ideas
than upon his sensations and sentiments. Accustomed
as he was to analyse his emotions, he realised the
development within himself of a new sense of appre-
ciation ; less sensitive now to extreme impressions,
he had become more so to ordinary ones. For
instance, though less enchanted by music, and less
irritated by discordant noises, he enjoyed absolute
calm more fully. Now indifferent to rich food, which
he formerly used to enjoy, he appreciated simple fare,
bread and pure water. He did not seek for picturesque
sites but took infinite pleasure in watching the growth
of grass or the bursting of a bud. The first halting
steps or the smile of an infant charmed and delighted
Demanding less from life, he now appreciated it as
it was, and experienced the joy of mere living. The
instinct, the sense of life had been born in him. He
now saw Life and Nature under a different aspect
from that which they had borne for him in his youth,
for he had gradually acquired more balance ; he had
In their turn, his ideas evolved towards a more
optimistic conception of life. His reflections, freed from
the yoke of his juvenile sensitiveness, tended towards
144 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
the possibility of a correction of the disharmonies
of human nature through knowledge and will. This
evolution had taken years. " In order to understand
the meaning of life," he said, " it is necessary to live
a long time, without which one finds oneself in the
position of a congenitally blind man before whom
the beauties of colour are spread out."
During the twenty-eight years that he lived in
France, nearly all his time was devoted to the labora-
tory. Whilst the Institute was still in its beginning,
work there was calm and collected ; but, as its
growing renown attracted many people, this quietude
decreased considerably. Metchnikoff felt this, but
could not bring himself to refuse to admit those who
came ; he compensated himself by peaceful Sundays
For a long time we inhabited the neighbourhood
of the Institute and spent the summers at Sevres ;
in 1898 we bought a small villa there with a sum
of money which we inherited from an aunt. In 1905
we settled there altogether, for Metchnikoff, confined
in the laboratory all day, felt the need of fresh air ;
the daily walk that he was obliged to take to reach
the house and the absolute calm, away from the noise
of the city, suited him ; he even fancied that the hill
on which the house was built provided him with a
wholesome exercise for his heart.
The return to Sevres, which he greatly liked, was
to him a daily source of pleasure. I can see him now,
hastily coming out of the train, his pockets full of
papers and brochures which he read in the train and
parcels in his hands, for he loved to bring home little
presents. A kindly smile illumined his face and he,
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 145
never failed to express the pleasure he felt at coming
home. " How pure the air is ! How green the grass !
What peace ! You see, if I did not go to Paris to work
I should not be so alive to the charm of Sevres and the
pleasure of rest." He used to come home at seven and
do no more work ; it was his daily rest. He then gave
himself up to complete relaxation, joked, related the
incidents of the day, spoke of his researches, planned
experiments for the next day, read aloud part of the
evening and then listened to music, not only because
he liked it, but also because he wanted to " switch
on to another line," i.e. rest his mind completely.
He was an incomparable companion, always alive
and communicative, generously giving out the trea-
sures of his heart and his intelligence. He liked a
simple life ; all artifice, all convention displeased
him. He disliked luxury in his person to that
extent that he never consented to possess a gold
watch nor any object with no particular use. His only
luxury was to gratify others. He enjoyed peaceful
family life and a circle of intimate friends. Yet,
appreciating as he did all serious manifestations of
life, he was glad to have the opportunity of meeting
people who were interesting either in themselves or for
the knowledge which they could impart.
In Life as in Science he found precepts to help
the evolution of his moral and philosophical ideas,
which he placed in their turn at Life's service. If he
could not solve a problem, he at least pointed out its
His attentive penetration of things in themselves,
coupled with a creative imagination, was the force
which enabled him to open out new prospects and
146 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
On looking back upon his own life, he used to say
that the period spent at the Pasteur Institute had
been the happiest, the most favourable to his scientific
work ; he therefore remained deeply attached to it
until the end of his life.
Opposition to the phagocyte theory Scientific controversies Experi-
ments in support of the phagocyte theory Behring and anti-
toxins The London Congress Inflammation.
As long as Metchnikoff was but a zoologist, the
scientific atmosphere around him remained calm and
serene. But everything changed suddenly when he
entered the domain of pathology with his theory of
phagocytes and phagocytosis.
Here was the realm of secular traditions, deeply
rooted, and of theories generally admitted but resting
on no biological basis. Attacks and objections against
his theories came following upon each other with a
rush, only to be compared with the racing clouds of a
stormy sky or the hurrying waves of a tempestuous
sea. An epic struggle began for Metchnikoff which
was to last for twenty-five years, until the moment
when the phagocyte theory, his child now grown
up, emerged victoriously. To each attack, to each
objection, he answered by fresh experiments, fresh
observations annihilating objections ; his theory was
assuming a wider and wider scope, becoming more
solid, more convincing. . . . But only his intimates
knew how much the struggle cost him in vital force,
what sleepless nights, due to continuous cerebral
tension and to the effort to conceive some new and
irrefragable experiment, what alternations of hope
148 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
and depression. ... In an ardent, stormy life such
as this, each year counted for many.
As soon as he arrived at the Pasteur Institute
he undertook active researches with the object of
developing and defending the phagocyte theory.
By experiments on the rouget of pigs he refuted
the objections of Emmerich, who affirmed that, in
that disease, the destruction of the microbes was not
due to phagocytes. By experiments on the anthrax
of pigeons he answered the attacks of Baumgarten
and his pupils. To Behring, who affirmed that
immunity was due to the bactericidal power of the
serum, he replied by a series of experiments on the
anthrax of rats.
By all these researches Metchnikofi proved that
recovery and immunity depended on the absorp-
tion and digestion of living, virulent microbes by
phagocytes. Natural or artificial vaccination by
attenuated microbes allows the phagocytes to become
gradually accustomed to digest more virulent ones,
and this confers immunity upon the organism. That
phenomenon is comparable to that by which we can
accustom ourselves gradually to doses of poison which
would be very harmful if taken at the start (arsenic,
opium, nicotine, etc.).
Little by little, the accuracy of MetchnikorTs obser-
vations began to be realised, and, moreover, other
scientists supported him by their personal investi-
gations. The part played by phagocytosis was
becoming more and more evident and the question
was ripening in France and in England, but in Ger-
many it still met with great opposition.
At the Berlin Congress in 1890 the theory was
received very favourably by Lister, whilst Koch
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 149
attacked it, trying to prove that phagocytes played
no part in immunity, which, according to him,
depended upon the chemical properties of the blood.
Soon after that, Behring discovered antitoxins,
and this seemed to favour the chemical or humoral
theory of immunity. According to the latter, microbes
and their poisons were rendered harmless by the
chemical properties of the blood serum, properties
similar to those of disinfecting substances.
In spite of his firm conviction of the solidity of the
phagocyte theory, this discovery was a shock to
Metchnikoff, for it was in apparent contradiction with
the cellular theory of immunity. He hastened to
undertake a series of researches ; his overflowing
eagerness infected his whole circle, every one taking
the warmest interest in the progress of his experi-
This was just as preparations were being made to
take part in the London Congress, where the question
of immunity was to be debated and had indeed been
placed at the head of the programme. Many papers
were being prepared, and a veritable tourney of
opinions was to take place at this Congress.
Metchnikoff had already been to England once,
in the spring of 1891, on the occasion of his reception
as an Honorary Doctor by the University of Cam-
bridge. This gave him the opportunity of making
closer acquaintance with the English, who inspired
him with great sympathy ; years only increased this
feeling. He appreciated the originality of their
earnest and generalising spirit, their loyalty and
energy ; he was grateful to them for the attentive
and favourable attitude with which his scientific
work and himself had been received.
150 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
He was therefore delighted that this Congress,
which was to be the scene of his final struggle against
his contradictors, should take place in England and
not in Germany, a country hostile to his ideas.
In view of the importance of the coming debate,
a series of fresh experiments was made. This time
Metchnikoff undertook them not only in person, but
also in collaboration with M. Roux and with some
students. The whole laboratory was in a state of
The principal papers to be read at the Congress
on the question of immunity were those of Messrs.
Roux and Biichner, the first entirely in favour of the
phagocyte theory and the second supporting the
Metchnikoff read an epitome of his researches and
of his answers to attacks on his theory. Towards the
end of the Congress the latter had visibly acquired
the suffrage of numerous scientists. Roux wrote to
me from London concerning my husband's paper :
Metchnikoff is busy showing his preparations and, besides,
he would not tell you how great is his triumph. He spoke
with such passion that he carried everybody with him. I
believe that, this evening, the phagocyte theory is the richer
by many friends.
Thus the researches made in recent years and the
results of the London Congress allowed us to consider
the phagocyte theory of immunity as being solidly
Yet, Behring's discovery of antitoxins still hung
over it like a sword of Damocles ; it was imperative
that the respective parts played by antitoxins and
by phagocytes should be elucidated. With that
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 151
object in view, Metchnikofi undertook new researches
and succeeded in ascertaining once for all the narrow
link between immunity and the function of the
phagocytes which probably elaborate the antitoxins
as a product of their digestion of vaccinal toxins. He
drew this conclusion from the fact that, in a rabbit
vaccinated against hog-cholera, the exudate devoid
of phagocytes l is neither bactericidal, nor antitoxic,
nor attenuating, while it is so if it contains phagocytes.
Therefore a relation of causality exists between cells
and the acquired properties of humors. And the
resistance of the animal is in visible correlation with
the degree of phagocytosis which is manifested by it.
These results having been established, it seemed
as if the last rampart of the humoral theory had been
taken by storm.
In the meanwhile the persistent and bitter opposi-
tion of physicians to the phagocyte theory made a
great impression on Metchnikofi, and, while stimu-
lating his energy in defence of his ideas, it maintained
him in a state of nervous excitement and even
He asked himself why this obstinate opposition
to a doctrine based on well-established facts, easily
tested and observed throughout the whole animal
kingdom ? To him, a naturalist, it seemed clear and
simple and all the more admissible that it was con-
firmed by the generality of its application to all
But, he thought, perhaps the real cause of the
attitude of the contradictors lies in the very fact
that medical science only concerns itself with the
pathological phenomena of higher animals, leaving
1 Aqueous humor, the exudate of aseptic redemata.
152 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
their evolution entirely out of account, as well as
their starting-point in lower animals whilst it is
the very simplicity of the latter which allows us to
penetrate to the origin of the phenomena.
Perhaps a general plan of the whole, in the shape
of a comparative study, embracing the whole animal
scale, would throw light over the generality of phago-
cytic phenomena and would make their continuity
understood through normal and pathological biology.
He determined to make this effort. In order to place
in a fresh light the biological evolution of phagocytosis
phenomena in disease, he chose one of the principal
manifestations of pathological phagocytosis, inflam-
mation, and, in 1891, gave a series of lectures on this
subject which he afterwards published in a volume.
According to his usual method, he began by the
most primitive beings, taking as a starting-point the
lower organisms which do not yet possess differentiated
functions, and whose normal digestion is, if necessary,
used as a means of defence against noxious agents.
Then, by a comparative study in every grade of
the animal kingdom, he proved that the same mode
of struggle and defence persists in the mesodermic
cells, the phagocytes in all animals in general.
In all of them, thanks to a special sensitiveness,
Chimiotaxis, phagocytes move towards the intruder,
to englobe it and digest it if they can. This reaction
for defence by the organism takes place in beings
endowed with a vascular system by the migration
of the blood-phagocytes which traverse the walls of
the blood-vessels in order to betake themselves to
the invaded point.
In higher animals, all the symptoms which accom-
pany this phenomenon of defence and which constitute
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 153
the classical picture of inflammation (a heightened
temperature, pain, redness, tumefaction) are due to
the complexity of the organism ; but the essence, the
primum movens of inflammation, with them also, is
a digestive action of the phagocytes upon the noxious
agent, therefore a salutary reaction of the organism,
essentially similar to the normal digestion of inferior
beings. Metchnikofi adduced numerous examples
giving evidence of the genetic link which exists
between inflammation and normal intracellular
digestion, and while establishing the evolution of
the former on biological and experimental bases, he
showed at the same time the close connection which
binds normal biology and pathological biology.
This series of lectures formed a volume which
appeared in 1892 under the title of Legons sur la
pathologic comparee de V inflammation, a book which
contributed to the acceptation of the phagocyte
theory and which showed the importance of Natural
History applied to Medicine.
Cholera Experiments on himself and others Illness of M. Jupille
Death of an epileptic subject Insufficient results.
THE acute period of the struggle in defence of the
phagocyte theory now seemed to have come to an
end and MetchnikofE turned his thoughts towards a
new field of ideas.
Having elucidated the essence of inflammation,
he wished to study the origin of another pathological
symptom, i.e. the rise in temperature which consti-
tutes a feverish condition. To that end he undertook a
succession of experiments on cold-blooded animals ; he
injected microbes into crocodiles and serpents, hoping
thus to provoke a rise in their temperature. But
those experiments did not give the results expected.
In the meanwhile (1892) cholera had made its
appearance in France ; the specificity of the cholera
vibrio was not finally established at that time. The
observations made by Pettenkoffer on the immunity
of certain regions, despite the presence of the cholera
vibrio in the water, and the experiments made upon
himself by that scientist, seemed to plead against the
specificity of the cholera vibrio ; but other facts spoke
in its favour. Desirous of solving this question,
MetchnikofE went to a cholera centre in Brittany
in order to fetch the necessary materials. Having
done so, he attempted to produce cholera in divers
kinds of animals, but without success.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 155
As he failed to solve the problem of the specificity
of the cholera vibrio on animals, he resolved to experi-
ment upon himself and consumed a culture of cholera
vibriones. He did not contract cholera, which made
him doubt the specificity of the vibrio, and therefore
he consented to repeat the experiment on one of his
workers (M. Latapie) who offered to submit to it :
the result was the same. He then did not hesitate
to accept the offer of a second volunteer (M. Jupille).
The preceding results having led him to suppose that
the cholera vibrio became attenuated in vitro and
might perhaps serve as a vaccine against cholera, he
gave a culture of long standing to the young volunteer.
To his astonishment and despair, Jupille began
to manifest the typical symptoms of cholera, and a
doctor who was particularly conversant with the
clinical chart of the disease declared the case a
severe one because of the nervous symptoms which
Metchnikoff was in mortal anxiety, and even said
to himself that he could not survive a fatal issue.
Fortunately the patient recovered, and this terrifying
experiment proved indisputably the specificity of the
cholera vibrio. Yet the irregularity of its action
showed that in certain cases conditions existed which
prevented the inception of the disease, and Metchni-
koff supposed that this might be due to the action of
the different intestinal micro-organisms.
In order to simplify the question, he began by
making experiments outside the organism. He sowed
the cholera vibrio with divers other microbes and
saw that some of them facilitated its culture whilst
others prevented it. Similar experiments within the
organism of animals gave no conclusive results ; the
156 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
simultaneous ingestion of the cholera vibrio and of
favourable microbes did not induce cholera.
The flora of the intestines, complex as it is, probably
played a part on which it was difficult to throw any
light. Yet Metchnikoff did not give up the idea of
producing a vaccine against this disease with attenu-
ated microbes, or, if not, to prevent its inception by
preventive microbes. His thesis was strengthened
when one of his pupils, Dr. Sanarelli, discovered a
series of choleriform bacilli in the absence of any
cholera epidemic, one of those microbes being found
at Versailles, a town which had remained immune
during every cholera epidemic.
Metchnikofi thought that this microbe, or some
choleriform bacillus, similar though not specific, prob-
ably served as a natural vaccine against cholera in those
localities which were spared by the epidemic though
the cholera vibrio was brought there. This was a
question that could only be solved by experiment.
At the time when he had himself absorbed a
cholera culture, Metchnikofi admitted the risk of
catching the disease ; still, his eagerness to solve the
problem had silenced in him all other considerations
and feelings opposed to his irresistible desire to attempt
the experiment. This " psychosis," as he himself
called it later, recurred now, in spite of all the emotions
he had gone through on the previous occasion, and he
decided once again to experiment on man. It is true
that he now only had to deal with choleriform microbes
from Versailles which he believed to be quite harm-
less as they came from the water of a locality free
from cholera. He therefore ingested some of the
Versailles choleriform vibriones and gave some to
several other people. Contrary to expectation, one
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 157
of the latter, an incurable epileptic, showed some
symptoms of cholera, but recovered. But as, a
short time later, this patient died from a cause
which remained obscure, Metchnikofi thought that
possibly the experiment might have had something
to do with it, and finally resolved to perform no
other experiments on human beings.
How could that unforeseen result be explained ?
Metchnikofi supposed that the intestine of the subject
contained favourable microbes which had exalted the
virulence of the bacillus, in itself weak and innocuous.
If it were so, then certain intestinal microbes would
influence the inception of diseases and the action of
the micro-organisms would vary according to the
society in which they found themselves. As such
problems could only be solved through experiment,
he again energetically sought for a means of con-
ferring cholera upon animals. After many failures
and difficulties, it occurred to him to try new-born
animals whose intestinal flora, not yet developed,
could not interfere with the swarming of the ingested
bacilli. He chose young suckling rabbits for his
experiments and, with the aid of favourable microbes,
he succeeded at last in giving them characteristic
cholera, through ingestion ; thus it became possible
to study intestinal cholera on these animals.
However, numerous researches on the prevention
of cholera by means of divers microbes gave no results
sufficiently conclusive to permit their application
to human beings. The problem was rendered ex-
tremely complicated and difficult by the many and
varied influences of numerous intestinal microbes and
the inconstancy of microbian species in the same
Pfeiffer's experiments, 1895 The Buda-Pest Congress Extracellular
destruction of microbes Reaction of the organism against toxins
Dr. Besredka's researches Macrophages The Moscow Con-
gress, 1897 Bordet's experiments.
METCHNIKOFF had scarcely recovered from all the
emotions caused by his experiments on cholera, which
he was still studying, when, in 1894, a work appeared
by a well-known German scientist, Pfeiffer, bringing
out new facts in favour of the extracellular destruc-
tion of microbes.
Whilst studying the influence of the blood serum
within the organism and not outside it as his pre-
decessors had done, he had found that cholera
vibriones, injected into the peritoneum of a guinea-
pig vaccinated against cholera, were nearly all killed
in a few minutes and that they then presented the
form of motionless granules in the peritoneal liquid.
This granular degenescence, said Pfeiffer, took place
apart from the phagocytes and therefore without
their intervention. Metchnikoff repeated the experi-
ment at once and ascertained that it was perfectly
The complexity of biological phenomena being
very great, he fully admitted the possibility of other
means of defence in the organism besides that of
the phagocytic reaction. However, this new fact
disagreed so much with his own observation, and
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 159
seemed so isolated, that Metchnikofi supposed an
error of interpretation must have been made and
tried to throw light upon it. He spent sleepless
nights seeking the conclusive experiment which might
explain Pfeiffer's phenomenon.
His excitement was all the greater that he was
very soon going to the International Congress at
Buda-Pest, where he intended to expose the results
of his new researches, and he feared that he should
not have time to make all the experiments which he
required in support of his arguments. However, the
general impression of the Congress was clearly favour-
able to the phagocyte theory. This is how M. Roux
picturesquely described the scene at MetchnikofE's
Jubilee in 1915 :
" I can see you now at the Buda-Pest Congress in 1894,
disputing with your antagonists ; with your fiery face,
sparkling eyes, and dishevelled hair, you looked like the
Daemon of Science, but your words, your irresistible arguments
raised the applause of your audience.
" The new facts, which had at first sight seemed to contra-
dict the phagocyte theory, now entered into harmony with it.
It was found to be sufficiently comprehensive to reconcile the
holders of the humoral theory with the partisans of the
This is how Metchnikoff had reconciled the apparent
disagreement of Pfeiffer's phenomenon with the
phagocyte doctrine : he demonstrated, by a series of
experiments, that the extracellular destruction of the
cholera vibriones in the peritoneum of a guinea-pig
vaccinated against cholera, did in no wise depend on
the chemical properties of the blood serum, but was
simply due to the digestive juices which had escaped
from the inside of the leucocytes, damaged by the
160 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
intraperitoneal injection. Those digestive juices, or
cytases, poured into the peritoneal liquid were what
killed the injected cholera vibriones and transformed
them into " PfeifEer's granulations." On the other
hand, if by means of various precautions the phago-
cytes were left unmolested, the extracellular destruc-
tion did not take place and the vibriones were digested
within the phagocytes.
Metchnikoff used other experiments to prove that
the bactericidal property of blood juices did not exist
without intervention from the phagocytes. For
instance, in a guinea-pig vaccinated against cholera,
the bacilli are not destroyed if they are injected into
parts of the organism that are devoid of pre-existing
phagocytes, such as in the subcutaneous tissue, in
the anterior chamber of the eye or in an aseptically-
obtained oedema. On the other hand, if, in the same
medium, some exudate is injected containing damaged
leucocytes from which the digestive juice is leaking,
the vibriones introduced are destroyed. The same
results are obtained in vitro.
All these experiments proved that the extra-
cellular destruction of the cholera vibrio was accom-
plished by the digestive juices which had passed from
the phagocytes into the humors and not at all through
a special property of those humors. Once again the
phagocyte theory rose triumphant from the test.
After having finally proved that it is by means of
its phagocytes that the organism fights microbes,
Metchnikofi wished to find out whether it was by
the same process that it struggled with their poisons,
or toxins. This problem, far more difficult to solve,
took him many years' study. Whilst every phase
of the phagocytes' struggle against microbes can be
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 161
followed with the eyes, it is impossible to do so where
poisons are concerned, since they are invisible ; it
is necessary to proceed by a different road.
Faithful to his method of taking as a starting-point
the simplest expression of the phenomenon to be
studied, Metchnikoff began by lower beings. Uni-
cellular organisms, such as myxomycetes, amoebae,
and infusoria, sometimes manifest a natural immunity
to certain poisons. It is also possible to endow
them with artificial immunity by accustoming them
gradually to substances which, ingested straight away,
would infallibly have killed them. Such phenomena,
seen in unicellular beings, could only be ascribed to
the reaction of the cell itself. Therefore Metchni-
koff supposed a priori that the phagocytes, being
similar primitive cells of multicellular beings, would
also react against poisons. And, in fact, he ascer-
tained that the number of phagocytes in a rabbit's
blood diminished considerably under the influence of
a fatal dose of arsenic, whilst it increased under the
influence of small doses of the poison, to which it was
possible to accustom the animal.
Dr. Besredka, a disciple of Metchnikoff, made some
very interesting researches, which entirely confirmed
the share of the phagocytes in the reaction against
sulphides of arsenic. He had chosen the trisulphide,
a very slightly soluble salt of an orange colour, in
order to find it again easily within the organism.
After having injected non-fatal doses of it into the
peritoneal cavity, he obtained an exudate in which
all the orange granules of the salt were to be found
included within those leucocytes which have a large,
non-lobed nucleus the macrophages. These cells
gradually digested the salt they had englobed, which
162 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
ended by disappearing entirely within them, and the
rabbit remained safe and sound. On the other hand,
it died if the same doses of the same salt had been
protected from the leucocytes by an elderberry bag,
or when the leucocytes had been attracted elsewhere
by a previous injection of carmine for instance.
Those experiments removed all doubts as to the
share of the phagocytes in the destruction of mineral
Certain experiments on microbian poisons spoke
in the same sense. Thus MM. Roux and Borrel had
observed that the diphtheritic toxin, which is in-
offensive to rats even in large doses, kills that animal
if a small quantity of it is introduced into the brain,
the probable explanation being that, in cases of sub-
cutaneous injections, the poison, "phagocyted" on the
way, was destroyed before it reached the nerve cells.
Thus experiments seemed to plead in favour of
the view that the part played by phagocytosis is not
limited to the struggle against microbes, but also
extends to the defence against poisons and toxins.
After having studied the mode of destruction of
these, Metchnikoff wished to elucidate the origin of
the counter-poisons, the specific antitoxins discovered
by Behring in the humors of immunised organisms,
a question of which the study was even more difficult.
Metchnikoff began by asking himself whether the
microbes themselves did not produce antitoxins in
order to defend themselves against enemy micro-
organisms. He made many experiments but only
obtained negative results, and concluded that the
antitoxins must be manufactured by the organism
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 163
The origin of this property must be more recent
than that of the phagocytic reaction, for it does not
exist in plants or in inferior animals. It was only
from superior cold-blooded vertebrates, such as the
crocodile and that only in artificial conditions and
upwards, that Metchnikoff succeeded in rinding a
specific antitoxic power in the humors.
He ascertained that the vaccination of animals by
toxins conferred, after a time, antitoxic powers to the
blood and humors which contained leucocytes. He
concluded therefrom that the presence of antitoxins
depended on that of the phagocytes. Experiments on
divers higher animals having proved that, in them
also, antitoxins were localised in humors containing
phagocytes, Metchnikoff concluded that the antitoxins
were manufactured by the cells themselves. As
toxins are absorbed and digested chiefly by macro-
phages, it is probable that it is the latter also which
manufacture specific antitoxins, or the final product
of the digestion of corresponding toxins. Metchni-
kofl could only propound this idea as an hypothesis,
for the complexity and difficulty of a material demon-
stration did not yet allow of a definite solution of the
problem. However, certain observations on toxins
and antitoxins pleaded in favour of this thesis.
For instance, working in collaboration with MM.
Roux and Salimbeni, he had found that it is by
soluble poisons that the cholera vibrions harm the
organism or kill it, but that small doses of the same
poisons are vaccines and make the blood of the vac-
cinated animal antitoxic. On the other hand, a
microbian vaccination is preventive against microbes
only but not against toxins and the blood does not
become antitoxic. This is explained by the fact that
164 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
it is not the same cells which digest cholera microbes
and cholera toxins : the microphages digest the
vibriones whilst the macrophages digest the poisons
and, probably, manufacture as products of this
digestion, the corresponding antibody, the cholera
On the contrary, in cases of the inclusion of
microbes by macrophages, as, for instance, in plague,
the blood acquires an antitoxic power by injection of
the microbes themselves and not by their toxins, as
was demonstrated by M. Koux and his collaborators.
The same fact was observed by Metchnikoff on the
alligator, in whom also microbes are digested by
macrophages. In those cases, when microbes and toxins
are digested by the same cells, the latter manufacture
antibodies against both.
These facts rendered legitimate the supposition
of the macrophagic origin of antitoxins.
In 1897 an International Congress took place in
Moscow. Metchnikoff read a paper on the phago-
cytic reaction against toxins and another dealing
with the whole of the knowledge acquired concerning
human plague. He ended this by a plea in favour of
Science, so often accused of having contributed
nothing to the solution of the most important human
problems, particularly ethical ones, and of having,
on the contrary, sanctioned the law of Might by
tabulating the laws of the struggle for existence.
Metchnikoff objected that, far from doing so, Science,
by revealing the laws of Nature, applied to humanity
the benefits derived from them, whilst striving to
counterbalance their cruel or harmful effects. The
struggle against plague and other diseases was a
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 165
concrete example of this, for here medical science
opposed itself to the cruelty of " natural selection."
He wound up his speech by the following words,
" Just as, in order to satisfy his sesthetic tastes,
Man revolts against the laws of Nature which creates
races of sterile and fragile flowers, he does not hesitate
to defend the weak against the laws of natural
selection. Science has been faithful to her mission
and to her generous traditions. Let her, then, progress
Metchnikoff's friend and companion, M. Nocard,
wrote to me concerning Metchnikoff's paper :
Do not believe a word that MetchnikofE tells you. He
had tremendous success. The somewhat free form of his
paper contributed to its success, as it only made his conviction
and enthusiasm more apparent. Thus the Sibyl on her
Metchnikoff had at this period a very talented
disciple, M. I. Bordet, who opened a new path by
a series of researches of the greatest importance.
He found, among other things, that " the figured
elements " can be destroyed outside the cells, in the
humors. Thus, if red blood corpuscles from one animal
are injected into an animal of a different kind, these
globules are destroyed, not within the phagocytes,
but outside them, in the ambient humors. Metchni-
koff studied this phenomenon and proved that the ex-
planation was the same that he had previously given of
Pfeiffer's phenomenon in the case of cholera vibrions.
In Bordet's experiments, the leucocytes which were
already existing in the humors were also damaged by
the experimental shock ; but, if this was carefully
avoided, the phagocytes, remaining intact, englobed
166 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
and digested the injected red corpuscles and no
phenomenon similar to Pfeiffer's took place.
These observations led Metchnikoff to a thorough
study of the destruction of cellular elements by the
phagocytes. He had already observed that, whilst the
struggle with microbes is chiefly undertaken by small
leucocytes with a lobed nucleus the microphages
it is the great leucocytes with a single large nucleus
the so-called macrophages which undertake the
destruction of cells, "figured" elements, as well as that
of toxins. The macrophages are to be found not only
in the blood but also in different organs such as the
liver, spleen, kidneys, etc. ; they seize upon living
cells by means of mobile protoplasmic prolongations
with which they draw them in and end by ingesting
them completely. Not only do they thus absorb
foreign cellular elements such as red corpuscles,
spermatozoa, etc., but also all the weakened cells
of the organism itself.
This weakening may be due to normal phenomena
such as the metamorphosis of insects or tadpoles,
when certain organs, as they weaken, become useless
or inactive. But, oftener, this weakening is due to
pathological causes, as in morbid atrophies or poisoning
by microbian toxins. In any case, the enfeeblement
of cells exposes them to be devoured by macro-
phages, which brings about the atrophy of the cells
or even of the organs which contain them.
These observations suggested to Metchnikoff the
idea that senile atrophy might be due to the same
mechanism, and his thoughts turned towards the
problem of the causes of old age.
But, before undertaking researches in a new
direction, he wished to conclude those he had been
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 167
pursuing for twenty years on the phenomenon of
phagocytosis. He therefore started to complete his
investigations on immunity in order to epitomise
them and to give a definite form to his doctrine on
1900. Immunity Natural Immunity Artificial Immunity.
FOR centuries the question of immunity has occupied
the human mind because the prevention of disease
has ever been one of the greatest preoccupations of
Man. Savages had already observed that man can
become refractory to the venom of serpents, either
through a slight bite or by the application of certain
preparations of that venom on scarified skin. It
was also a popular and very ancient notion that the
contact of a slightly scratched hand with the pustules
of cow-pox conferred immunity against human small-
pox. It was on this observation that Jenner founded
his method of antivariolic vaccination. The latter,
in its turn, suggested to Pasteur the idea of attempting
antimicrobian vaccinations. Having ascertained that
old cultures of chicken cholera, previously very viru-
lent, had become harmless, he wondered whether they
had become a vaccine and proved by experiment
that they had. That led him to the principle of the
attenuation of viruses and to that of vaccination
by attenuated microbes. Thus the problem of the
mechanism of immunity was stated.
The first theories propounded on the subject con-
cerned the humors. Pasteur supposed that im-
munity was due to the absorption, by the vaccinating
microbes, of certain nutritive substances in the humors,
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 169
which, not being renewed for some time, were missed
by the microbes afterwards introduced into the organ-
ism, which therefore could not develop completely.
Chauveau, on the other hand, thought that, in cases
of immunity, the humors contained substances which
were unfavourable to microbes. Those theories ex-
plained particular facts, but were not applicable to
the generality of cases.
Other theories, 1 whilst attributing an active part
to the organism itself, failed to account for the
mechanism of immunity in general. This was due
to the fact that knowledge at that time lacked the
two essential elements, i.e. the modifications suffered
by the organism which was becoming immunised, and
the fate of the microbes in the refractory organism.
The disappearance of the microbes in the cured
or refractory animal had indeed been observed ; 2 the
inflammatory reaction of the organism in the course
of immunisation had been noted ; 3 microbes had
long ago been observed inside the white globules of
pus ; 4 but, either an erroneous interpretation was
given to the facts observed, or, rather, the links of
causality between those factors failed to be established
because they were observed solely in the complicated
organism of superior beings. Humoral theories, less
easy to test, preserved an appearance of generality
and were easily admitted.
Such was the state of the question when Metchni-
koff approached it from a naturalist's point of view.
He knew the life of unicellular beings and that of the
lower multicellular organisms in their complete sim-
1 Naegeli, Biichner, Gravitz. 2 Chauveau.
4 Hayem, Birach, Hirschfeld, Kleps, Recklinghausen, Waldeyer, and
170 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
plicity ; he knew their mode of defence by ingestion
and intracellular digestion. Having become familiar
with these phenomena, visible in the single cell, he
was better able to see his way in the complicated
milieu of higher beings. He was therefore able to
discover the connection between the divers factors
which other scientists had observed singly. He was
able to prove that it is the combination of these
factors, i.e. inflammation, the ingestion of living and
virulent microbes, and their disappearance by means
of intracellular digestion which makes immunity
possible. He demonstrated that " there is but one
permanent element in natural or acquired immunity,
and that is phagocytosis."
The extension and importance of this factor,
applicable to the whole animal kingdom, proved the
truth and general scope of the phagocyte doctrine
In 1900, Metchnikoff presented to the Inter-
national Congress in Paris a complete tabulation of
his researches and fought his contradictors for the
last time, after which, convinced that his deductions
were solid, he began to write a work on Immunity in
Infectious Diseases. In it he epitomised, as in a great
harmonious chord, the results of his researches, reach-
ing over a period of nearly twenty years ; he affirmed
and gave final expression to his doctrine of immunity,
based on the comparative study of the mechanism of
that phenomenon and of its evolution along the whole
scale of living beings ; he related his controversies,
analysed the objections to his doctrine, expounded
the theories of other scientists concerning immunity,
and gave a general view of the present state of
the question. This book is a living picture of a
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 171
long and important part of MetchnikofTs scientific
The question of immunity is of such great im-
portance, the mechanism of this phenomenon and
the physiology of intracellular digestion are so com-
plicated, that I have thought it useful to epitomise
here the exposition given of it by Metchnikoff in his
book. Readers who do not care to go further into
the subject can pass over the next few pages with-
out hindering their comprehension of the following
Diseases affect all living beings, and the greater
number of plants and animals would cease to exist
without innate or acquired immunity.
Unicellular beings are generally immune against
infectious diseases, which are rarely observed in them.
Their body being almost entirely made up of digestive
protoplasm, the microbes which they absorb are
directly introduced into a noxious medium and are
destroyed therein like any other food. If the
microbes are indigestible, they are immediately
rejected ; hence, in the majority of cases, they
cannot become harmful.
This resistance of unicellular beings to many
microbes and microbian toxins is due not only to
the intense digestive power of the cell but also to
the extreme sensitiveness which rules over the choice
of food. Owing to this protoplasmic sensitiveness
(chimiotaxis) protozoa are attracted towards certain
microbes or substances (positive chimiotaxis) and re-
pelled by others (negative chimiotaxis). Thus, many
ciliate infusoria choose bacteria only for their food ;
they are sharply repelled by dead infusoria, etc.
172 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
Therefore, in the natural immunity of unicellular
beings, two fundamental elements may already be
observed : sensitiveness and intracellular digestion.
No researches have yet been made on the possibility of
conferring on protozoa an artificial immunity against
certain pathogenic microbes and their poisons. But
unicellular beings, insensible to microbian poisons, are
the reverse to many chemical substances which, in their
normal life, they have no opportunity of ingesting.
It has been proved by experiment that, against
many of those chemical substances, an artificial im-
munity may be given to the protozoa by accustoming
them gradually. Very diluted solutions are added at
first to the medium in which they live and, by gradu-
ally concentrating those solutions, an artificial im-
munity is conferred ; the negative chimiotaxis becomes
positive, allowing the protozoa to absorb and digest
the poison, now become a food.
Habit is therefore the fundamental condition of
artificial immunity ; it must be that also of immunity
naturally acquired. Having accidentally digested
enfeebled microbes or having suffered an attack of
disease, the unicellular being becomes accustomed to
a stronger virus and becomes immune against it.
The fact that so many unicellular beings have become
thus accustomed is therefore connected with their
sensitiveness and their digestion. Accordingly,
sensitiveness, habit, and digestion are the funda-
mental factors of the mechanism of immunity in
protozoa ; this immunity thus indisputably belongs
to the category of purely cellular phenomena.
Having arrived at this conclusion, Metchnikoff
thought that the same mechanism of immunity must
be found in other primitive and analogous cells, such
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 173
as the phagocytes of multicellular beings. This was
proved by a whole series of observations and by the
fact that the immunity of higher animals is connected
with an intense phagocytosis. In fact, as he ascended
the scale of beings and studied their natural and
artificial immunity, he ascertained that, in all of them,
the essence of immunity, masked by the complexity
of the organism, reduced itself to the phagocytes
becoming accustomed to noxious agents. The mechan-
ism of immunity in protozoa could therefore really be
compared with that of immunity in multicellular
Becoming accustomed and becoming immune are
phenomena of a general order, for they can be mani-
fested not only by animals, but also by plants. They,
too, have to defend themselves against numerous
diseases. Lower vegetables, such as myxomycetes
(beings which stand on the limit between the animal
and vegetable kingdoms), have an amo3boid phase,
in which they are but a simple heap of formless
protoplasm. During that stage of their life, myxo-
mycete behave towards noxious agents exactly in
the same way as unicellular beings and, like them,
acquire immunity by becoming gradually accustomed.
In higher vegetables, the mechanism is different
because of their structure. The cells of nearly all
plants are immobilised by rigid membranes ; there-
fore they cannot surround their prey, but protect
themselves by the production of tough membranes
(cicatrisation) and by the secretion of various juices.
Certain of these juices (gums and resins) become
solid when exposed to the air and constitute a sort
of natural (dressing) ; others (essences) are antiseptic.
The secretion of these cellular juices in plants is
174 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
therefore a powerful means of defence. This defence
is due to the extreme sensitiveness of the protoplasma
of vegetable cells : they react against irritation by a
defensive secretion. Vegetables, as well as unicellular
beings, can accustom themselves or become artificially
accustomed to noxious influences and acquire im-
As to animals, Metchnikoff had already proved
long ago that they defend themselves against morbid
agents by phagocytosis, i.e. by intracellular digestion.
It is always to be found in cases of immunity and is
indispensable to it, on the same grounds as in uni-
cellular beings. The organism of multicellular animals
possesses various cells which play the part of phago-
cytes. There are some in the blood and humors, as
also in the divers organs and in the tissues. These
phagocytes are either mobile leucocytes, or fixed
tissue-cells. However, all those cells may be classed
into two principal groups : the microphages and the
macrophages. Both categories of cells are capable of
digesting microbes, but it is chiefly done by the micro-
phages, whilst macrophages more especially digest
figured elements (cells) of animal origin and poisons.
It may be said that the microphages are vegetarians
whilst the macrophages are chiefly carnivorous.
What, then, is the mechanism of phagocytic
Intracellular digestion by phagocytes is accom-
plished by means of digestive ferments, similar to
those of our own digestive organs. " In both cases,"
says Metchnikoff, " a diastasic action is due to soluble
ferments produced by living elements. In intra-
cellular digestion, the diastases digest within the
cells, whereas in extracellular digestion the pheno-
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 175
menon takes place outside the cells, in the cavity of
the gastro-intestinal tube."
Only gradually has intracellular digestion given
place to the digestion by secreted juices. The link
between these two modes is to be found in certain
transparent Invertebrates, such as the floating mol-
lusc Phyllirhoe. The nourishment is first digested
in the cavity of the digestive tube by secreted juices,
and its treatment is completed within the amoeboid
cells of the caecum.
In higher animals, the digestion of food is due
to several digestive ferments (rennet, pepsin, tryp-
sin, enterokinase, etc.) produced by divers organs
(stomach, pancreas, intestines). The phagocytes
also manufacture several digestive ferments; their
principal digestive juice is a soluble ferment of the
trypsin category, to which Metchnikoff gave the
name of cytase. 1
To the morphological difference of the phagocytes
corresponds also a difference in the properties of their
cytases, which are suited to the digestion of this or
that food. The cytases are kept within the interior
of the cells and only escape into the humors when
the phagocytes are damaged (Pfeiffer's phenomenon).
This kind of ferment does not withstand a tempera-
ture above 55 to 58 C. In natural immunity, it
plays the principal part by digesting morbid agents
inside the phagocytes like any other food. But, in
artificial immunity., other soluble ferments come into
play, developed in consequence of vaccination.
The principal of those is the fixator. 2 It is less
1 It ia also called alexine or complement by other writers.
2 Designated by other writers by various synonyms : preventive, or
sensibilising substance, immunising body, amboceptor.
176 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
sensitive than cytasis to high temperatures and can
bear a temperature of 65 to 68 C. It is incapable,
by itself, of killing and digesting, but by fixing on
them, it bites them, so to speak, and makes them
sensitive to the action of the phagocytic cytases,
which can thus digest them more easily.
The fixator may be compared to enterokinase, a
special ferment in the small intestine of higher animals
which also does not by itself digest food but which
activates in a high degree the digestive power of
pancreatic ferments. However, it has the property
of fixing itself on fibrin ; it is obvious that entero-
kinase and the fixator have the same essential
properties. This similarity again proves that the
destruction of morbid agents by the phagocytes
really corresponds with actual digestion.
It is in consequence of the digestion of vaccinal
products that the phagocytes manufacture the fixator.
Created at the expense of a given vaccinal substance,
the fixator has a specific character which corresponds
with that substance, whereas the cytase already
existing within the phagocytes never has a specific
Artificial immunisation generally produces the
formation of so great a quantity of fixators that the
phagocytes are unable to retain them and excrete them
in part in the ambient humors, i.e. the blood plasma,
or serum. When, afterwards, virulent morbid agents
(microbes or figured elements) are introduced into
an organism which has been immunised against them,
they are at once faced, in the humors, with fixators,
which immediately exert a biting action on them
and render them sensitive to the action of the
intracellular cytasis of the phagocytes. The same
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 177
mechanism explains the specificity of the serums of
The quantity of specific fixators in the humors
depends on the surplus production of that ferment by
the phagocytes and is not always the same. That is
why different serums are preventive in different
degrees. They are inactive if the phagocytes have
not produced enough fixators to pass any out into
the humors. For a serum is only preventive when it
brings into the new organism into which it is in-
jected a sufficient quantity of fixators ready to
sensibilise the morbid agents afterwards introduced
into the organism.
The over-production of antibodies fixators or anti-
toxins corresponds up to a certain point with the
frequency and quantity of vaccinal injections ; that
is why serums are usually preventive in artificial
immunity and very rarely so in natural immunity.
Through successive inoculations, the cells become
accustomed to digesting the microbes, or figured
elements, and manufacture, in consequence of that
digestion, growing quantities of fixators.
In natural conditions, on the other hand, morbid
agents do not usually penetrate into the organism in
massive or repeated doses ; therefore digestion under
natural conditions results in a less abundant produc-
tion of fixators which can be contained in the interior
of the phagocytes without leaking into the humors
in sufficient quantities to render the latter preventive.
It might be thought that immunity against patho-
genic microbes is accompanied by immunity against
their toxins. In reality that is not always the case,
and very often the organism, now made refractory
to certain microbes, remains sensitive to their toxic
178 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
products. Thus antimicrobian immunity and anti-
toxic immunity constitute in most cases two distinct
properties. In order to confer antitoxic immunity
recourse must be had to vaccination by soluble poisons
Immunity, acquired naturally, is so especially
against microbes and not against toxins, for, in nature,
it is almost always by microbes that the organism
is threatened. As to antitoxic immunity, it is very
probably due to the intracellular digestion of toxins
by the different macrophages. This hypothesis is
supported by the experiments quoted in the pre-
ceding chapter. During antitoxic vaccination, the
macrophages manufacture, probably at the expense
of vaccinal toxins, a certain quantity of antitoxins,
substances which offer a great similarity with the
fixators. Like them, they are specific ; they are
also produced in great quantities and excreted into
the humors, which they render antitoxic when suffi-
ciently abundant ; finally, they are not very sensitive
to high temperatures. That is why, in spite of the
impossibility of proving their origin directly, it is
quite probable that it is analogous to that of the
fixators and that antitoxins are manufactured by
cellular elements, the macrophages in particular. For
it is they which absorb and digest toxins as well as
This deduction is also supported by the antitoxic
immunity which may be conferred on unicellular
beings in which the cell alone enters into play.
Phagocytes no doubt manufacture many other
soluble ferments corresponding with the elements
which they absorb, for, in a vaccinated organism,
divers new specific properties of the serum are to be
LIFE OP ELIE METCHNIKOFF 179
found, such as that of agglutination, precipitation, etc.
Humoral properties may be more or less durable,
in proportion as the products manufactured by the
phagocytes are more or less rapidly evacuated by the
All these humoral properties, traced back to their
first source, depend upon the digestive activity of the
phagocytes, since they are the products of that
digestion. In cases where it has not yet been possible
to make a direct demonstration of this, it becomes
evident through analogy and experiments pointing in
To sum up, according to Metchnikoff, " Immunity in
infectious diseases is linked with cellular physiology,
namely, with the phenomenon of the resorption of
morbid agents through intracellular digestion. In a final
analysis, the latter (as also the digestion of food in
the gastro-intestinal tube) reduces itself to phenomena
of a physico-chemical order ; however, it is a real
digestion accomplished by the living cell. . . . The
study of Immunity, from a general point of view,
belongs to the subject of Digestion."
Immunity against diseases is but one of the mani-
festations of an immunity on a much larger scale,
always based, in final analysis, on the sensitiveness
of the living cellular protoplasm. The sensitiveness
of the nervous cells extends this phenomenon to
the psychical domain. They also are capable of
becoming accustomed to external irritations of all
kinds, hence constituting a psychical immunity for
the organism. We all know that one can become
accustomed to many painful or violent sensations;
and, as MetchnikoS says : "... It is very probable
that the whole gamut of Habit, starting from the
180 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
unicellular beings, who accustom themselves to live in
an unsuitable medium, to cultured men who acquire
the habit of not believing in human justice, rests on
one and the same fundamental property of living
Private sorrows Death of Pasteur, 1895 Ill-health Senile atrophies
Premature death Orthobiosis Syphilis Acquisition of an-
METCHNIKOFF'S health had suffered from the numerous
emotions provoked by the struggle in defence of the
phagocyte doctrine and also from a series of sad
events. In 1893, sickness and death fell upon our
family ; I lost a sister and a brother at a short interval
and had myself to undergo a serious operation. My
husband nursed me night and day, as a mother might
have done, and went through the deepest anxiety
on account of post-operative complications. All this
told on him all the more that he had just endured
cruel moral suffering during the experiments on cholera
mentioned above. In 1894, an agricultural crisis in
Russia influenced our material situation and gave him
many worries. In the autumn of 1895, M. Pasteur's
health became worse and, soon afterwards, he died.
This series of calamities depressed Metchnikoff, his
old cardiac trouble returned, and he again became a
prey to insomnia. We spent part of the holidays in
the mountains, thinking it might do him good, but
he did not care for a prolonged rest ; he was pre-
occupied by the thought of his interrupted experiments
and only thought of returning to the laboratory.
In 1898, he had some disquieting symptoms of
182 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
kidney trouble, a little albumen. He consulted the
celebrated German physician, von Noorden, who
found nothing serious, but this did not reassure him
and he continued to worry about himself.
Already some time previously, theoretical considera-
tions on senile atrophies had directed his thoughts
towards old age. His reflections now turned towards
the psychological aspect of the problem ; he analysed
his personal sensations and realised that he, at the
age of 53, felt an ardent desire to live. This imperious
instinct for life, in spite of the inevitable evolution
towards personal death and old age, brought his
thoughts back to the disharmonies of human nature.
But now, through all his gloomy reflections, he was
borne up by the unshakable conviction that Science
would succeed in correcting those disharmonies and
he continued to work with untiring energy.
He had prescribed for himself a hygienic diet,
based on the idea that the cause of his own condition
and senility in general was due to a chronic poisoning
by intestinal microbes. This diet consisted in avoiding
raw food in order not to introduce noxious microbes
into the intestines, and in absorbing their useful
enemies, the acid-forming microbes of sour milk.
This diet was very favourable to his health.
After he had finished his book on immunity he at
last allowed himself to pass on to the new questions
which preoccupied him, i.e. senility and death.
He set forth a sketch of his ideas in 1901 in a
paper which he read at Manchester (Wilde Lecture)
on the " Flora of the Human Body." He reviewed
this flora and pointed out the harmful effect of the
microbes, especially those of the large intestine the
toxins of which effect a chronic poisoning of the
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 183
cells of our organism and thus provoke their gradual
weakening. He then indicated the means of combat-
ing this evil, on the one hand by stimulating the vital
activity of the cells exposed to enfeeblement, by
means, for instance, of small doses of specific cyto-
toxins, and, on the other hand, by direct action on
intestinal microbes. He concluded by saying that
" the intestinal flora is the principal cause of the
too short duration of our life, which flickers out
before having reached its goal. Human conscience
has succeeded in making this injustice obvious ;
Science must now set to work to correct it. It will
succeed in doing so, and it is to be hoped that the
opening century will witness the solution of this great
Metchnikoff considered that our chronic poisoning
by intestinal microbes weakens our cellular elements ;
he supposed that the same cause might provoke
senile phenomena, manifestly due to weakness of the
One of the first manifestations of senility being the
whitening of hair, he began to study the mechanism
of that. He had previously observed the dominant
part played by phagocytosis in all phenomena of
atrophy, and it occurred to him that it may be phago-
cytes which destroy the colouring matter of hair, a
substance which, in the form of tiny granules, is
enclosed within the hair cells. In fact, he found
that the whitening process is accompanied by a
stimulation of the amoeboid cells which introduce
their protoplasmic prolongations into the periphery
of the hair. They absorb the coloured granules, or
pigment, and digest it, partly on the spot, partly
after carrying it into the root of the hair, often even
184 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
in the connective tissue which supports the hairy
scalp. As the pigment becomes destroyed, the hair
loses its colour and whitens. The cells which devour
the pigment pigmentophages belong to the cate-
gory of macrophages which, in general, absorb all the
enfeebled cells in the organism.
MetchnikofE was able to note similar phenomena
in divers other senile atrophies either by his own
ulterior researches or by collaboration with his pupils
(MM. Salimbeni and Weinberg).
In the same way that the whitening of the hair
depends on the destruction of pigment by pigmento-
phages, the wrinkles of the skin, weakness of the
muscles, friability of the bones, and senile degeneres-
cence of divers organs are caused by the destruction
of weakened cells which do not defend themselves
and thus become the prey of the stronger and more
resisting macrophages. Senility is thus no other than
a generalised atrophy. What is it that provokes it ?
The answer is : The swarming microbes in our large
intestine. They form the permanent source of a
slow poisoning of our organism. This fact alone
suffices to explain one of the principal causes of the
enfeebling of our tissues. It is not simultaneous in
all the cells because of their different powers of
resistance. The struggle and destruction of the weak
by the strong is the cruel law of nature ; therefore
the macrophages, more resisting to poisons, take
advantage of the weakening of other cells in order
to devour them, and this is one of the causes of
These reflections and the biological researches which
confirmed them allowed Metchnikoif gradually to
build up a philosophical doctrine, which he ex-
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 185
pounded in 1903 in his work, fitudes sur la nature
He considered " old age " as a pathological pheno-
menon. He saw in it one of the most important dis-
harmonies of human nature, because of the fact that
neither senility nor death is accompanied by a natural
instinct. The accomplishment of every physiological
function leads to satiety or to a desire for rest ; after
a busy day, man feels an instinctive need for rest and
sleep. But, in his maturity, he has no desire to grow
old, and in his old age none to die. It is rare that
one should aspire to die, and nobody wishes to grow
old. These facts are in contradiction with other
natural phenomena ; they are all the more discordant
that they play an immense part in our psychical life.
After a general review of opinions on human nature,
Metchnikoff analysed it from the biological point of
view ; he revealed its discords and concluded that it
is far from being perfect. In his eyes, the lack of
harmony in the human being is an inheritance from
our animal ancestors ; they have handed down to us
a whole series of remains of organs which are not only
useless but even harmful in the new conditions of
The large intestine, inherited from mammalian
ancestors, holds the first place among those noxious
organs. This reservoir of food refuse was very useful
to our animal forebears in their struggle for existence ;
it allowed them not to interrupt their flight whilst
pursued by their enemies. In man, whose life condi-
tions are different, a large intestine of that size,
without offering the same advantages, is a source of
slow and continuous poisoning and a cause of prema-
ture senility and death.
186 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
Man, after acquiring a still higher development,
realised these evils and made concentrated efforts to
fighfc them and to soothe his own terrors. It is for
that object that the divers religious and philosophical
systems were created, in which humanity sought for
consolation. Finding none there, man turned to
Science, which, at first, neither solved his doubts nor
eliminated his sufferings. But Science provided him
with rational methods of research, owing to which he
gradually progressed and conquered a series of truths,
allowing him gradually to struggle against some of
his troubles and to solve some of his problems.
Science has already done much to diminish the diseases
which are among the chief scourges of humanity.
It has thrown light upon the causes of many of them
and has found preventive and curative remedies for
Surgery, antiseptics, serotherapy, vaccinations
already yield secure results. Hygiene and prophy-
laxis are in course of development, and a vast prospect
is open to them in the future. But our heaviest
burdens, senility and death, common to all, have yet
scarcely been studied. Having expounded his views
on senility and proved that it is a pathological pheno-
menon, Metchnikoff concluded that to struggle against
it was quite as possible as to struggle against disease.
The principal causes which bring about premature
senility are : alcoholism, chronic poisoning by intes-
tinal microbes, and infectious diseases, headed by
syphilis. Surely Science will discover efficacious
means against all these.
The strengthening of the beneficent cells in our
organism ; the transformation of the wild intestinal
flora into a cultivated flora, by the introduction of
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 187
useful microbes ; the struggle against infectious
diseases and alcoholism all these are workable means
of fighting pathological and premature senility.
When old age becomes physiological and no longer
painful it will become proportionate with the other
epochs of our lives and cease to alarm us. But how
is the fear of death to be explained, since it is a general
and inevitable phenomenon ? How is it that we have
no natural instinct for death ? Metchnikoff supposes
that this lack of harmony in our nature comes from
the fact that death is as premature as senility and
arrives before the natural instinct for it has had time
to develop. This supposition is confirmed by the
fact that old people who have reached an excep-
tionally advanced age are often satiated with life
and feel the need of death as we feel a need of sleep
after a long day's work. That is why we have a
right to suppose that, when the limit of life has been
extended, owing to scientific progress, the instinct of
death will have time to develop normally and will
take the place of the fear which death provokes at
the present day. Both death and old age will become
physiological and the greatest discord in our nature
will be conquered.
Our manner of life will have to be modified and
directed according to rational and scientific data if
we are to run through the normal cycle of life ortho-
biosis. The pursuit of that goal will even influence
the basis of morals. Orthobiosis cannot be accessible
to all until knowledge, rectitude, and solidarity
increase among men, and until social conditions are
Man will then no longer be content with his natural
inheritance ; he will have to intervene actively in
188 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
order to correct his disharmonies. "Even as he
has modified the nature of plants and animals Man
will have to modify his own nature in order to make
it more harmonious."
In order to obtain a new race, one forms an ideal
in relation to the organism to be modified. " In
order to modify human nature, it is necessary to
realise what is the ideal in view, after which every
resource of which Science disposes must be taxed in
order to obtain that result. If an ideal is possible,
capable of uniting men in a sort of religion of the
future, it can only be based on scientific principles.
And if it is true, as is so often affirmed, that it is im-
possible to live without faith, that faith must be
faith in the power of Science."
In those words, Metchnikoff ends his book on
The public at large and many critics did not under-
stand the deep and general meaning of Metchnikoffs
thoughts. They reproached him with having an in-
sufficiently exalted ideal, for they only saw in his
doctrine the desire of postponing senility and living
longer. They did not understand that to revolt
against the lack of harmony in nature, through which
all humanity has to suffer, not only physically but
morally, was to aspire to perfection. They did not
consider that, in order to attain that end, all human
culture and the whole social state would have to be
modified ; that this could only be done through many
virtues, intense energy, and great self-control. They
had not understood the elevation and power of an
ideal which aspired to perfect not only the direction
of life but human nature itself. They had not under-
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 189
stood the audacious beauty of such a struggle, the
benefit conferred by the belief that the human will
and the human mind are capable of transforming
Evil into Good according to a conceived ideal ! . . .
In the meanwhile Metchnikoff, convinced that
Knowledge is Power and that " Science alone can
lead suffering Humanity into the right path," quietly
continued his task.
One of the most characteristic symptoms of old
age is the hardening of the arteries arterio-sclerosis.
He therefore especially wished to elucidate the mechan-
ism of that phenomenon.
Whilst many, yet unknown, factors come into
play in senility, one disease, syphilis, often provokes
arterio-sclerosis, indisputably due to a morbid agent.
Metchnikoff therefore began to study this disease,
of which the origin is infectious especially as he
thought he could do so experimentally.
Long before this, he had conceived the idea that
the study of those human diseases which cannot be
transmitted to ordinary laboratory animals might be
carried out on anthropoid apes, of all animals the
nearest to man. He had spoken of it to M. Pasteur,
but, at that time, the Institute could not afford to
acquire these costly animals. In 1903, at the Madrid
Congress, Metchnikoff received a 5000 fr. prize and
utilised this money in the acquisition of two anthro-
poid apes. The same year M. Roux won the Osiris
prize of 100,000 fr. which he devoted to the same
object, and it was decided that the two together
would undertake researches on syphilis. Other dona-
tions, 30,000 fr. from the Morosoffs of Moscow and
250 roubles from the Society of Dermatology and
190 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
Syphilography of the same city, completed the capital
required to execute the projected plan.
The following is a short sketch of the researches that
were undertaken and the results that were obtained.
The inoculation of anthropoid apes with syphilis
was successful. The chimpanzee was found to be
most sensitive to the disease ; it manifests primary
and secondary symptoms identical with those of
man. Lower monkeys, though less sensitive, also
contract syphilis but generally only show primary
characteristic manifestations. The possibility of
rapidly provoking in apes, even of the inferior kinds,
syphilitic lesions similar to those of man has a very
great importance, for it provides a sure means of
diagnosis in doubtful human cases. Owing to the
liability of apes to contract syphilis, experimental
vaccination and serotherapy could be attempted on
them ; but, though these experiments were sometimes
encouraging, the results obtained were not constant
enough to justify their application to man. Thus,
it was found possible to attenuate the virus by
successive passages in certain lower apes, and yet,
though attenuated for the chimpanzee, it did not
confer upon him immunity against the active virus.
In 1905, Schaudinn discovered the syphilitic tre-
ponema in man. By using this discoverer's method,
the same microbe was found in apes inoculated with
human virus, which confirmed the specific character
of the treponema.
An observation was then made which was of great
importance on account of its consequences : it was
ascertained that the syphilitic microbe was absorbed
by the less mobile mononuclear phagocytes and re-
mained localised near the entrance point long enough
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 191
to allow of a local treatment which might succeed
in being curative as it had time to act before the
microbes had passed into the general circulation of
the organism. This supposition was proved to be
correct by a series of experiments on monkeys, and,
in 1906, a young doctor, M. Maisonneuve, inoculated
himself with syphilis and applied the treatment with
a perfectly satisfactory result.
It might have been thought that this simple, safe,
and innocuous method would at once come into prac-
tice, but it was not so. Between opposition on the
one hand, and carelessness of the subjects themselves
on the other, this useful discovery remained for a long
time without being utilised. All the above results were
obtained through experiments on anthropoid apes,
and the study of syphilis, until then purely clinical,
entered at last into the field of experimental science.
Researches upon syphilis were but an interlude ;
Metchnikoff, returning to his principal work, resumed
the study of senility and of the intestinal flora.
During many years he applied himself to researches
concerning the part played by the latter within the
He was able to confirm the deductions expounded
in his Etudes sur la nature humaine, and in 1907 he
published a new work, Essais optimistes, in which he
developed the same ideas, amplified by the results
of his new researches, and answering the criticisms
excited by his first book.
In the Essais optimistes he studied first of all the
phenomena of old age in the different grades of the
scale of living beings, of which he compared the life
duration. He concluded jjthat there was an indubit-
192 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
able connection between this and the intestinal
The shorter the intestine, the fewer microbes it
contains and the longer the relative duration of life.
As an example, he quoted the relatively great lon-
gevity of birds and bats. Those animals, adapted to
aerial life, have to weigh as little as possible. To
that end, they empty their intestine very frequently
and this in consequence is not used as a reservoir
for alimentary refuse ; as it is but little developed, it
contains a much smaller number of microbes. The
longevity of flying animals is relatively much greater
than that of mammals with a large intestine full of
microbes, a constant source of slow poisoning.
After treating the question of longevity, Metchni-
kofi dealt with that of death.
Living beings die, in the great majority of cases,
in consequence of diseases or accidents with an
external cause ; one involuntarily wonders whether
there is such a thing as " natural death," i.e. arising
exclusively from causes due to the organism itself.
A review of known facts allowed MetchnikofE to draw
the following conclusions : unicellular inferior beings
have no natural death ; they merely die by accident.
Their individual life is very short and comes to an
end by multiplication or division of a unit into two ;
there is no trace of a corpse in this loss of previous
Among superior plants, certain trees attain con-
siderable dimensions (dragon-tree, baobab, oak,
cypress), live for centuries, and die from external
causes. Their organism presents no internal necessity
for a natural death. On the other hand, a multitude
of other plants have but a short life and their natural
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 193
death coincides usually with the ripening of the seed.
It has even been observed that it is possible to
retard the death of a plant by preventing it from
fructifying. For instance, lawns made up of grass
mown before it runs to seed remain green and living
whilst grass allowed to flower and bear seed becomes
yellow and dries up. It is a well-known fact that
fruits and seeds are frequently poisonous. Therefore
Metchnikoff supposed that the death of the plant may
be due to an auto-intoxication by poisons manu-
factured by it in order to defend its seeds and ensure
the next generation ; in Nature, the individual does
not count, but the species. Once the survival of this
is ensured the individual may disappear.
A similar phenomenon of auto-intoxication is mani-
fested by lower vegetables, yeasts, and microbes.
Pasteur, who discovered the microbe of lactic fermen-
tation, found that this micro-organism, which itself
produces lactic acid, perishes because of the over-
production of this substance. Yeasts, again, cannot
bear an excess of alcohol, their own product. Thus
the vegetable kingdom offers us examples of the
absence of natural death as well as examples of a
natural death due to an auto-intoxication of the
In the animal kingdom examples of natural death
are also to be found, but only very exceptionally.
Those examples are provided by Rotifera (inferior
worms) and by Ephemeridae. Their adult life is
reduced to the sexual act, almost immediately followed
by death without an external cause. Their life is so
short that they do not even feed and lack developed
buccal organs. That in itself constitutes an organic
cause of inevitable, i.e. natural, death.
194 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
Among human beings natural death is extremely
rare. It sometimes occurs in very old people, under
the shape of a peaceful last sleep. The likeness it
bears to sleep is so striking that Metchnikoff thought
himself authorised to form the following hypothesis
concerning the analogy in their mechanism.
According to a theory of Preyer's, fatigue and sleep
are due to a periodical auto-intoxication set up by
the products of the vital activity of our organism.
These products are destroyed by oxidation during
sleep, after which fatigue disappears and awakening
comes. According to Metchnikofi it may be that the
mechanism of natural death also consists in an auto-
intoxication by the progressive accumulation of toxic
products during the whole of life. The analogy be-
tween sleep and natural death allows the supposition
that, as before going to sleep an instinctive desire for
rest is felt, in the same way natural death must be
preceded by an instinctive desire to die. Moreover,
this is confirmed by concrete examples. Thus that of
an old woman of ninety-three who expressed that desire
in the following terms to her great-nephew : " If ever
you reach my age, you will see that death becomes
desired just like sleep." The same thought had been
expressed by the biblical patriarchs who fell asleep
satiated with life.
When, owing to the progress of Science, men reach
the development of the instinct of death, they will
look upon Death with the same calm as do very old
people, and it will cease to be one of the principal
causes of pessimism. It is for that reason that we
must learn to prolong life and to allow all men to
realise their complete and natural vital cycle, thus
ensuring their moral balance.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 195
Psychological observations allowed Metchnikoff to
conclude that pessimism is much more frequent in
youth than in maturity or in old age. He attributes
this to the gradual development of the vital instinct
which is only completely manifested in middle age.
Man then begins to appreciate life ; made wiser by
experience, he demands less and is therefore better
Metchnikoff proffers examples in support of his
theory. He analyses the psychic evolution of Goethe
as reflected in his Faust and describes that of "an
intimate friend." These examples prove that natural
psychological evolution already leads to a relative
optimism. But, as long as senility is pathological and
death premature, the apprehension that they inspire
antagonises the normal evolution of optimism. A
victory over those present evils will direct the normal
course of life in the right way; one normal active
period will succeed another ; the accomplishment of
individual and social functions corresponding with
each period will become realisable ; the death in-
stinct will have time to develop, and Man, having
been through his normal vital cycle, will sink, peace-
fully and without fear, into eternal sleep.
Researches on intestinal flora Sour milk.
THE problem of our intestinal flora is so vast and so
difficult that it demands years of research. Numerous
facts had already been accumulated by Science on
this subject, but it was still far from being elucidated.
Certain scientists affirmed that microbes favour
digestion by decomposing food residues in the intes-
tine and are therefore not merely useful, but necessary
to the organism. Others entertained a diametrically
opposed opinion. The first thing, therefore, was to
know which of the two opinions was founded on fact.
Metchnikoff studied the case of the bat, in which the
digestive tube is short and the large bowel not even
differentiated. As he had supposed, a priori, in this
animal, whose life duration is relatively long, the
intestine contains few or no micro-organisms, which
proves that digestion can be accomplished without
their intermediary. Moreover, this was before long
amply confirmed by the researches of MM. Cohendy,
Wollman, and other scientists who succeeded in
bringing up chickens and tadpoles in conditions of
Having acquired the conviction that microbes are
not indispensable to digestion, Metchnikofi studied the
part they play in the organism. It is universally
admitted that the products of putrefaction are toxic,
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 197
and lie enquired whether the intestine sheltered
putrefying microbes. This question had not yet been
solved ; certain bacteriologists thought that little or
no putrefaction exists in a normal intestine. Metch-
nikoff ascertained through systematic researches that
the intestinal flora includes several kinds of putrefying
microbes which secrete highly toxic products.
With his pupils and collaborators, MM. Berthelot
and Wollman, he carried out a series of experiments
which established the fact that this intoxication is
due to poisons of the aromatic group, such as phenols
and indols. With these substances, they succeeded
in artificially provoking arterio-sclerosis in the organs
of animals, and also other modifications similar to
those which are observed in senility. Having proved
that putrefying microbes provoke the intoxication
of the tissues, Metchnikoff set to work to find a
means of struggling against those microbes.
It was known that they could only live in an
alkaline medium which is precisely that of the intes-
tinal juices. Metchnikoff thought that if means were
found to render the intestinal contents acid, without
harm being done to the organism, the putrefying
microbes might thus be destroyed. It had been
known for a long time that sour milk does not
suffer putrefaction, that being prevented by the acid
fermentation. The lactic microbes of this fermenta-
tion must therefore be antagonistic to the putrefy-
ing microbes. He drew a conclusion in favour of
the utility of sour milk, containing acid-producing
microbes ; once introduced into the intestine, these
should prevent the breeding of the noxious microbes
which require an alkaline medium.
His hypothesis seemed confirmed by the fact that
198 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
populations who feed almost exclusively on curded
milk live a very long time. In Bulgaria, for instance,
whole villages, thus fed, are known for the longevity
of their inhabitants. Starting from these considera-
tions, he made experiments upon himself and system-
atically introduced into his diet sour milk carefully
prepared with pure cultures of certain lactic bacilli.
His health was benefited by it, and his friends followed
his example. Certain doctors recommended sour
milk, the use of which gradually spread as a hygienic
food. Metchnikoff considered the result acquired as
a first step towards the artificial transformation of
the wild intestinal flora into a cultivated and useful
Unfortunately, the study of the intestinal flora is
extremely complicated because of the innumerable
species of micro-organisms and the extreme difficulty
of disentangling the many influences which cross each
other. He therefore considered collective researches
as indispensable, the life and science of one man being
insufficient to solve so vast a problem. Up to a
certain point he succeeded in realising this scientific
collaboration within his own laboratory.
The Nobel Prize Journey to Sweden and to Russia A day with
IN 1908 Metchnikoff received the Nobel Prize, together
with Ehrlich, for his researches on immunity. Accord-
ing to the statutes of that prize, the laureate is invited
to give a lecture in Stockholm. Metchnikoff chose for
his theme the " present state of the question of im-
munity in infectious diseases," and, in the spring of
1909, we went to Sweden and thence to Russia. The
whole journey was a series of fetes and receptions in
his honour. He was touched and grateful at this
welcome, but with his usual humour, declared that
it was the Nobel Prize which, like a magic wand,
had revealed to the public the value of his researches.
We only stopped for a short time at Stockholm,
where the kindest hospitality was shown to Metch-
nikoff. Sweden made an unforgettable impression
upon us. Her deep, dark waters, wild rocks, and
sombre pines make of it a land of legends. Elie was
impressed not only by Nature in Scandinavia but
also by Scandinavian Art, which reproduces it admir-
ably. He was specially pleased with Lilienfiorse's
pictures, representing animals against a background
at the same time real and legendary.
We went to Russia by way of the Baltic. The
nights at that time were " white," and rocky islands
200 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
covered with pines emerged from the sea like ghosts,
in the mysterious silvery midnight light ; the im-
pression was fairy-like.
A warm welcome awaited Metchnikofi in Russia.
At Petersburg, as in Moscow, he was received with
cordial and enthusiastic sympathy not only by scien-
tific and medical societies, but by all the intellectual
youth of those cities. This warm reception contri-
buted to efface the bitterness sometimes aroused in
him by distant recollections of the reasons which
caused him to leave his native country.
During our stay in Russia we made the acquaint-
ance of our great writer, Leon Tolstoi. We spent a
day with him in his estate, lasnaia Paliana, and the
day left a lifelong impression upon us.
It was at dawn that we reached the little railway
station where a carriage had come to meet us. It
had been raining in the night and now, in the first
morning light, everything shone with dew. We were
excited by the sight of the Russian country, cool
meadows, forest, fields, all that simple landscape that
we had not seen for so long, and we were also greatly
moved at the idea of meeting Tolstoi.
The village appeared in the distance and, a little
way apart, the wide open entrance gate of the old
park of lasnaia Paliana. We entered a long shady
avenue leading to the home of Tolstoi. The spring
was at its best, flowers and perfumes everywhere.
The house and the old park had the poetic charm of
the ancient " nests of nobility " in Russia.
Tolstoi's daughter greeted us on the steps ; her
kindly simplicity at once put us at our ease. We
had hardly entered the vestibule when we saw Leon
Tolstoi himself coming down the stairs with a brisk
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 201
step. We knew him at once, though he seemed to
us different from all his portraits. We were first of
all struck by his eyes, deep, piercing, and yet as clear
as those of a child. He had nothing of that hard-
ness and severity that one is accustomed to see in his
portraits ; his features, too, seemed to us much finer
and more idealised. He looked straight into our eyes
as if he wished to read the depths of our souls. But
we were at once reassured by the kind and benevolent
expression of his whole face. He looked strong and
healthy and did not seem old, but full of inner life.
After the first words of welcome, he said to us, " You
resemble each other ; that happens after living
happily together for a long time." He questioned us
concerning our journey and on the impression made
upon us by Russia after our long absence ; then he
said he had to finish his morning task.
His daughter and son took us for a walk through
the park and the village, and the friendly words they
exchanged with the peasants indicated excellent
relations between the villagers and the people of the
chateau. As soon as we came in, Leon Tolstoi re-
appeared, declaring that he gave himself holiday for
the day. He questioned Metchnikoff on his researches,
on the present state of hygiene, and on the application
of scientific discoveries. He listened attentively and
with visible interest. At the end of the conversation
he declared that it was quite erroneously that he was
thought to be hostile to Science, and that he only
denounced pseudo-science, which has nothing to do
with human welfare. " In reality," he said, " you and
I are aiming towards the same goal by different lines."
All his words were impregnated with a deep
love for, and an ardent desire to serve, humanity.
202 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
Literature and Art were mentioned ; Tolstoi said
that lie was now so far from it all that he had
even forgotten some of his own works and appreciated
them much less than his writings on spiritual ques-
tions. He thought that sometimes beauty of form
acted at the expense of the moral bearing of the sub-
ject. To the objection that Art embellishes Life, he
answered that it has some value in that it serves as
a link between men and makes them purer, but that
its moral importance surpasses its aesthetic value by a
He related that he had conceived a new work on
the social movement in Russia and, a propos of that,
the conversation fell upon political reprisals. The
subject of deportations, prisons, and executions was
visibly painful to him ; his eyes, now sad and suffering,
revealed his vibrating soul.
On the agrarian question, he was in favour of the
nationalisation of land, and showed great enthusiasm
for Henry George. He thought the suppression of
the commune in Russia a great mistake. Metchnikoff
explained to him that his personal observations in
Little Russia spoke, on the contrary, in favour of
individual property, which gave better agricultural
results. Tolsto'i manifested perfect tolerance, and
conversation flowed on peacefully concerning various
subjects. In everything he said the beauty and eleva-
tion of his soul was perceptible.
After lunch he desired to have a serious conversa-
tion with Metchnikoff and took him out driving, he
himself holding the reins. On the way he returned to
the question of Science. He thought that humanity
was so overwhelmed with misery and had so many
urgent questions to solve that work ought to be
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 203
turned in that direction, and that we had no right to
busy ourselves with abstract questions unrelated to
life. " What good can it do man to have a notion
of the weight and dimensions of the planet Mars ? "
MetchnikofT answered that theory is much nearer
to life than it seems, and that many benefits have been
acquired for humanity by scientific observations of
an abstract order. Thus, the discovery of the great
unchanging laws of Nature give to Man the conscious-
ness of being submitted to logical laws instead of
an arbitrary force, and that is a benefit. When
microbes were discovered, their part in human life
was not suspected, and yet this discovery was after-
wards of the greatest service to human welfare since
it enabled man to fight against disease.
On the way back, Tolstoi gave his place to his son
and himself returned on horseback, an exercise in
which he indulged almost daily, in spite of the
approach of his eighty years. He still rode
splendidly, sitting quite upright, and seemed even
younger than before.
After that he went to take a little rest, whilst
Countess Tolstoi gave us immense pleasure by reading
to us two yet unpublished works by her husband,
the charming story After the Ball and the tragic
Sergius the Monk.
In the late afternoon a friend of our host, an
accomplished musician, sat at the piano and played
some Chopin. In the spring twilight the charm of
that music rilled us with emotion. Leon Tolstoi",
seated in an armchair, listened ; the lyrical beauty of
the sound sank deeper and deeper into his soul, his
eyes became veiled with tears, he leant his forehead
204 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
on his hand and remained motionless. Metchnikoff
also was deeply moved, and the effect of music on
two such men, the pleasure that it gave them, was
the strongest plea in favour of pure Art.
" I do not know what takes place in my mind
when I listen to Chopin," said Tolstoi a few moments
later, after the closing sounds had vanished, " Chopin
and Mozart move me to the depths. What lyrism !
what purity ! " Metchnikoff liked Mozart and Beet-
hoven, but Tolstoi thought Beethoven too compli-
cated. As to Wagner and modern music, they both
agreed about it, thinking it unintelligible and lacking
harmony and simplicity.
Around the tea-table conversation turned on
senility, and Metchnikoff developed his theory of the
discords of human nature. He illustrated his affirma-
tions by the example of Goethe's Faust, who, accord-
ing to him, formed the best picture of the evolution
of human phases. To his mind the second part of
Faust is but an allegory of the disharmonies of old age.
It is a striking picture of the dramatic contest between
the yet ardent and juvenile feelings of old Goethe
and his physical senility. Tolstoi seemed interested
by this interpretation and said he would read the
second part of Faust over again, but that he himself
would never offer an example of a similar lack of
harmony. A propos of Metchnikoff's theory, accord-
ing to which the fear of death exists because Death
itself is premature, Tolstoi affirmed that he had no
fear of death, but added, laughingly, that he would
nevertheless try to reach the age of 100 in order to
Our train only left late in the night, and, until we
started, the conversation never ceased to be animated.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 205
In every one of his words Tolstoi's exalted soul was
perceptible, a soul in which there was room but for
preoccupations of a spiritual order. He would have
given the impression of floating above the earth if
his ardent and compassionate heart had not constantly
brought him back to the miseries and faults of
human beings. The atmosphere around him was
pure and vivifying as on high peaks, and the place
seemed sanctified by his presence.
That interview had been a meeting of two superior
minds, two exalted souls, but how different ! The
one, scientific and rational, always leaning on solid
facts in order to soar and to spread his wings in the
highest spheres of thought ; the other an artist and
a mystic, rising through intuition to the same spiritual
heights ; both pursuing the same goal of human per-
fection and happiness, but going along such different
roads. . . .
As we took leave of him, Leon Tolstoi said, " Not
farewell, but au revoir ! " And as we sat in the
carriage and started to go, he appeared in a lighted
window, as in an aureola, waving his hand, " Au
revoir, au revoir ! " he repeated for the last time.
. . . The night was calm and beautiful under the im-
mensity of the starry vault, and its greatness was
confounded in our souls with the greatness of Leon
Intestinal flora Infantile cholera Typhoid fever Articles on popular
WHEN he returned home, Metchnikoff immediately
resumed his work. He continued, with his colla-
borators, researches on the normal intestinal flora
and on the microbian poisons which provoke arterio-
They were able to ascertain that certain microbes
of the intestinal flora, such as the bacillus coli and
Welch's bacillus, produce poisons (phenol and indol)
which are reabsorbed by the normal intestinal walls
and which provoke arterio-sclerosis and other lesions
of the organs. A part of those poisons is eliminated
by the urine, and the quantity found therein allows
one to estimate the quantity contained in the
organism. An exclusively vegetarian or carnivorous
diet increases its production, while a mixed diet
reduces it. During the rest of his life MetchnikofE
made systematic and periodical analysis of his own
urine in correlation with his diet.
From certain facts and certain experiments he con-
cluded that the reciprocal influence of microbes might
be utilised to attenuate or to eliminate the noxious
action of some of them. Thus, by cultivating the
lactic bacillus in the presence of those microbes which
produce poisons belonging to the aromatic group, the
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 207
decrease in quantity and even the disappearance of
phenol and indol is observed. All those facts con-
firmed anterior results which Metchnikoff had ob-
tained, and indicated the route to be followed in his
struggle against those toxins which gradually poison
the organism and induce premature senility.
Having thus elucidated certain questions concern-
ing the part played by microbes in a normal organism,
he studied the pathogenic intestinal flora. He began
by infantile cholera because this question is simplified
by the fact that new-born children are fed exclusively
on milk. It was then believed by practitioners that
this intestinal disease of infants came from their
mode of feeding, from summer heat, and other external
influences. Metchnikoff, however, succeeded in demon-
strating that the 'contents of the intestines of infants
suffering from " cholera " always included a special
kind of microbe, the B. proteus ; he was also able to
give the disease to young anthropoid apes by making
them ingest food soiled by the intestinal contents
of sick infants, thus establishing the infectious char-
acter of infantile cholera.
He then attacked another intestinal disease,
typhoid fever, of which the microbe (Eberth's bacillus)
had been known for some time, but had not been
studied experimentally, ordinary laboratory animals
being refractory. Metchnikoff had again recourse to
anthropoids, and succeeded in infecting a chimpanzee
by making him eat food soiled by the intestinal con-
tents of a typhoid patient.
With the collaboration of Dr. Besredka, he under-
took a series of experiments on anthropoid apes and
on macaques. The former alone took typical typhoid
fever, similar to that of man. It could be given them
208 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
by pure cultures of Eberth's bacillus, which definitely
confirmed the specificity of that microbe.
Antityphoid vaccination by means of killed bacilli
not being at that time either safe or durable, Metch-
nikofE advised measures of simple preventive hygiene :
the use of cooked food, great personal cleanliness,
cleanliness of streets and dwellings, and the destruction
of insects, especially flies, which often infect food.
In order to popularise these notions, he wrote a series
of articles in newspapers. Later, several scientists
found efficacious means of vaccination against typhoid
In 1912 Metchnikoff, in collaboration with Dr.
Besredka (the author of the antityphoid vaccination
method by means of sensitised bacilli), demon-
strated on anthropoid apes that antityphoid vaccina-
tion by living sensitised microbes is certain, and
that it presents no danger of diffusing the disease, for
these microbes, harmless to the vaccinated individual,
cannot prove a source of danger for his entourage,
since they are phagocyted at the very place where
they are inoculated.
MetchnikofE always considered that it was very
useful to keep the public at large informed of the
results acquired by Science, because "it is only by
becoming a part of daily life that measures of hygiene
and prophylaxis will have efficacious results." He
therefore lost no opportunity of spreading scientific
principles and facts. In 1908 he had given in Berlin
a lecture on " The Curative Forces of the Organism."
In a Russian review, the Messenger of Europe, he
developed the same subject and included an epitome
of his lecture in Stockholm on immunity. In that
article he expounded the phagocyte theory of im-
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 209
munity. Among concrete examples of its application,
he quoted the indications concerning the evolution of
an infectious disease provided by the quantity of
leucocytes in the blood, and the process employed
by certain surgeons to diminish the danger of infec-
tion during an operation : just as, in case of an enemy
menace, the Government mobilise an army, certain
surgeons employ divers means to attract an army of
phagocytes and to stimulate their activity in case
any microbes should penetrate into the wound.
In 1909 he gave another lecture at Stuttgart, " A
Conception of Nature and of Medical Science," in
which he summed up his two works fctudes sur la
nature humaine and Essais optimistes. The title
of this lecture was intended to emphasise his view of
human nature, according to which " Man, as he
appeared on the earth, is an animal and pathological
being belonging to the realm of medicine." But he
ended his paper by the same optimistic thought which
illumines the whole philosophy of his later years.
" With the help of Science, Man can correct the im-
perfections of his nature."
He unveiled these imperfections and the ills which
proceed from them, not only from a love of truth or
scientific honesty, but always with the object of
rinding means to combat them. He never allowed
sight to be lost of the fact that Science lights up
the tortuous and painful path which leads to an issue
that suffering humanity will find by gradually widen-
ing the limits of knowledge with the help of Work and
Thus all his writings offer us encouragement and
A bacteriological expedition to the Kalmuk steppes, 1911.
DURING his preceding journeys in the Kalmuk steppes,
Metchnikoff had often heard it said that tuberculosis
was almost unknown there, but that the Kalmuks
took it very easily when brought into contact with
foreigners. As all means of combating this disease
had hitherto given very unsatisfactory results, Metch-
nikoff thought that researches should be started along
a new path. He had long thought that observations
on the extreme liability of Kalmuks to tuberculosis
might perhaps provide some new data. But the
study of the question necessitated a very distant
journey which he now at last had the opportunity of
According to Metchnikoff s hypothesis, a natural
vaccination takes place among us against tuberculosis
which would explain the resistance of the majority
of human beings in spite of the enormous diffusion
of the disease. He concluded that some attenuated
breeds of microbes become introduced into our
organism during our childhood, thus vaccinating us
against the virulent tuberculous bacillus. This sup-
position seemed to him plausible, for he had long
ago found that some micro-organisms (Cienkovsky's
bacillus, the cholera bacillus, etc.) become modified
in different environment and conditions, both in form
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 211
and in virulence. He had described this phenomenon
in 1888 in a memoir entitled Pkomorphism of
Microbes. His hypothesis would explain the liability
of the Kalmuks, since, if no tuberculous bacilli
existed in the steppes, the inhabitants could not
acquire a natural vaccination. When placed in an
environment which was not free from tuberculosis,
they became infected very easily, being in no wise
prepared for the struggle against the virus.
The expedition to the Kalmuk country was there-
fore planned in order to ascertain whether tuber-
culosis was really absent from the steppes. This could
easily be done by Pirquet's test, 1 which at the same
time would show whether the number of Kalmuks
infected increased from the centre to the outer limit
of the steppes and corresponded with the greater
degree of contact with the surrounding population.
If the enquiry confirmed the hypothesis, there would
remain to be seen which microbes might best be used
The expedition was also intended to elucidate a
few questions on the etiology of endemic plague in
the Kirghiz steppes. When this intention became
known, the Russian authorities desired to add to it
a local mission on the study of plague epidemics in
the steppes. Metchnikofi, who was chiefly concerned
with the question of tuberculosis, was only able to
draw up a plan of work for the Russian mission and
to start it going in one of the plague centres.
The Pasteur Institute expeditionary party com-
prised, besides Metchnikofl, MM. Burnet, Salimbeni,
and lamanouchi. They were joined at Moscow by
1 A cutaneous scarification by tuberculin which provokes local inflam-
matory redness on the scarified point in tuberculous subjects only.
212 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
Drs. Tarassevitch and Choukevitch, and at Astrakhan
by the physicians of the Russian plague mission.
The Institut Pasteur party left Paris on May 14, 1911,
full of spirits ; Metchnikoff, eager to make the journey
pleasant for his companions, was doing the honours
of his country to the best of his ability ; he fully
succeeded, owing to the warm welcome and liberal
hospitality which they received in Russia, where
every one tried to contribute not only to the success
of the expedition but to the comfort and pleasure
of its members. The latter, indeed, preserved a most
pleasant recollection of this journey, and, in later
years, always spoke of it with pleasure.
Navigation on the Volga from Nijni Novgorod to
Astrakhan was full of peculiar charm. That five days'
journey was one of the rare periods of complete
rest in Metchnikoff 's life. He indulged in the dolce
far niente as he watched the peaceful landscape on
the passing banks. The Volga, then in flood, covered
immense spaces. Here and there, whole forests
emerged from the river which reflected them as in an
enchanted dream. From time to time, little isolated
villages appeared with the gilt cupola of a church
or a monastery, then meadows, forests, steep cliffs,
or gentle slopes down to the river. What poetry,
what grandeur in simplicity ! As in a kaleidoscope,
types of varied populations and pictures of local
customs followed upon each other.
Along the banks now and then were seen proces-
sions of pilgrims. Their humble, gray, stooping
figures breathed deep faith and resignation. Some-
times popular songs arose from the Volga, sad,
expressive, soul-penetrating chants.
This contemplative quietude was only interrupted
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 213
by stations in the ports of large towns where deputa-
tions of the educated inhabitants came to wish the
mission welcome. These functions had a cordial
and touching character, for it was obvious that such
enthusiastic demonstrations had for their source a
sincere cult for the knowledge whose representatives
were being feted ; it was touching to see such a living
ideal in this distant and oppressed land.
At Tsaritsine, several Kirghiz embarked on our
boat in order to go to a large fair which the inhabitants
of the steppes attended in numbers. Metchnikoff
thought this was a unique opportunity to learn whether
there were any carriers of the plague bacillus among
those many natives coming from all parts of the steppes.
He therefore decided that those members of the ex-
pedition who had come to study plague would go to
the fair with the Kirghiz, whilst he, with the rest of
the expedition, would make observations on the
Kalmuks of the Astrakhan region.
A most hospitable welcome awaited us there ; people
vied with each other in their efforts to assist the
expedition. The Governor-General of Astrakhan had
ordered all preparations to be made, and the mission
was provided not only with necessaries but with com-
forts which did much to alleviate the fatigue of the
Whilst waiting for our companions, we had time
to verify several diagnostical reactions, the Kalmuks
lending themselves willingly to the operation. We
heard later that they thought they were being vac-
cinated against small-pox, a disease much feared in
As soon as the plague mission arrived, we started
towards the Kirghiz steppes, for there was a plague
214 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
centre north of the Caspian Sea. When we were out
at sea, an intense north wind began to blow the waves
away from the Kirghiz bank, and soon the depth
lessened to such an extent that we could make no
progress. The sailors were perpetually making sound-
ings, and their repeated cries of " Two and a half feet ! "
became a regular nightmare. The situation seemed
critical, and returning to Astrakhan was suggested ;
an idea which infuriated Metchnikoff ; he would not
hear of it. At last, after several incidents we reached
the Kirghiz bank, the crossing having lasted three
days instead of the usual twenty-three hours.
As we arrived, we could see from afar a sort of
Valkyries' ride of natives clad in brilliant colours and
riding up at full gallop with wild cries and exclama-
tions. Before us spread a barren and sandy steppe,
producing the sad impression of a land forsaken by
God and man. How could life be possible there ?
But gradually, as we became captivated by the charm
of the boundless space, the purity of the air, the
harmonious colouring and the scent of wild heliotrope
and wormwood which alone can grow in those sands,
we began to understand that it was not only possible
to live in those steppes, but also to love them.
The plague centre stood among sandy hills with
low-growing grass ; the summit of one of them was
black with charred remains of burnt objects ; the
corpses were buried in the same place. Only a few
wretched forsaken hovels remained. In order to
throw light upon endemic plague in the steppes, it
was first of all necessary to ascertain whether the
plague microbes remained alive for some time in
places where the scourge had raged ; if they were
preserved in dead bodies which had been singed
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 215
rather than burnt ; if the worms, insects, rodents, and
domestic animals on the spot were or were not carriers
of the plague microbe, and could or could not transmit
it to a distance from the initial focus.
After organising a small emergency laboratory,
the corpses were exhumed, and Dr. Salimbeni made
a post-mortem examination. These corpses, having
been in the ground for three months, were in a state
of advanced decomposition and contained no living
Having set the work of the plague mission going,
Metchnikoff parted from it in order to accomplish
the projected investigations on tuberculosis in the
Kalmuk steppes. He made a very solemn entry
into these steppes ; a Kalmuk deputation welcomed
the mission and presented Metchnikofi with a bronze
The aspect of those natives is sad and humble,
their movements are slow, their eyes dull. In this
they contrast with their neighbours, the quick and
intelligent Kirghiz, and one reason for it is that the
latter, being Moslems, absorb no alcohol, while the
Kalmuks consume fermented milk (alcoholic fer-
mentation) which poisons them slightly but con-
tinuously ; this observation had already been made
by Metchnikoff at the time of his previous visit.
The Kalmuks live in tents covered with coarse
felt ; they transport these dwellings on camels from
one place to another when their herds of sheep or
horses have consumed the scanty pasture grass
around the camp. There is no attempt at cultivation,
and the steppes become more and more barren as
the pastures become exhausted. In order to remedy
this evil, the Russian administration has begun
216 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
various experimental plantations. In some places
the steppes are covered with small tamarisk bushes
or with silky grass, but, as a rule, the chief growth is
of silver wormwood. The monotony is not so great as
one might think, for the steppes, like a mirror, reflect
all the divers light-changes, and wonderful natural
phenomena take place there. During the great heat,
mirages are to be seen in the distance a river, lakes,
reed-grown shores ; sometimes a sand-storm super-
venes, more infernal than fairy-like, called here
" smertch." The wind raises the sand in tongues of
flames or in funnels running up to the sky with giddy
rapidity. Gradually, all the separate turmoils join
in a gigantic wall of sand, advancing in an orgy of
movement ; the heavy clouds fall towards the
ground, the sand rushes upwards, everything becomes
confounded in darkness and chaos.
One feels so entirely in the power of natural forces
that the fatalism of the poor inhabitants of the land
is easily understood. The Kalmuks, primitive and
nomadic, produce the impression of ghosts from
Metchnikoff noticed that since his last visit in
1874, fatal influences had worked havoc on the
population. Four scourges, all of them coming from
outside, are destroying the Kalmuks : syphilis,
alcoholism, tuberculosis, and the Russians who are
constantly pushing them back. Those poor people
realise the fate which is awaiting them, and resign
themselves like a sick man who knows his sickness
to be incurable.
The spiritual life of the Kalmuks reduces itself to
their religious cult. There are many Buddhist con-
vents where children are being brought up for a
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 217
monastic life. Religious rites are performed by
priests dressed in purple and brilliant yellow ; for
the uninitiated, their part consists in unrolling inter-
minable bands on which prayers are inscribed, and
in executing a religious music which seemed a mixture
of a camel's grunt, a dog's howling, and an infinitely
sad plaint. Of the pure cult of Buddha, nothing
seems to remain but an empty form. However,
there is a convent in the steppes Tshori a sort of
religious academy, where an effort is being made
to restore the cult to the original level of Buddhist
Whilst gathering observations on tuberculosis, we
traversed the steppes in a north-easterly direction as
far as Sarepta. This town seemed like a civilised
centre after the steppes, where the conditions of life
were somewhat hard in spite of the cordial reception
accorded us everywhere. The food, consisting solely
in tinned goods and mutton, had caused intestinal
trouble in nearly all the members of the expedition ;
on the other hand, we were greatly incommoded by
the heat, lack of water, and abundance of insects of
In spite of all, Metchnikoff had hitherto borne the
journey fairly well. However, since we left Moscow
he had had frequent cardiac intermittence, accom-
panied sometimes by sharp pains along the sternum.
But the stay at Sarepta especially tried his health ;
the heat reached 35 C. (95 F.) in the shade and 52 C.
(about 125 F.) in the sun ; in the evening the windows
could not be opened because of the mosquitoes.
Metchnikoff, who had shown so much endurance,
now became weak, drowsy, and nervous ; he attri-
buted his condition to the excessive heat. Yet he
218 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
could not leave Sarepta, for all the members of both
branches of the mission had agreed to meet there in
order to sum up the results of their observations.
The researches of the expedition for the study of
plague were not finished, and the Russian mission
had agreed to complete them. So far, it was estab-
lished that neither the corpses after a certain time
nor the ground, nor the surrounding animals con-
tained any plague microbes, and no carriers had been
found among the Kirghiz population.
The data gathered among the Kalmuk population
justified MetchnikofFs hypothesis. In the centre of
the steppes, where the Kalmuks were still isolated,
tuberculosis was completely unknown ; diagnosis
reactions were negative. They became positive more
and more frequently as we came nearer the periphery
of the steppes and the Russian population. The
extreme sensitiveness of the Kalmuks must there-
fore depend on the fact that they have suffered no
natural vaccination in the steppes, which would
support the idea that some natural vaccine exists
amongst us. Metchnikoff therefore concluded that
he might direct ulterior researches towards the quest
of natural tuberculous vaccines. Such were the
scientific results of the expedition.
Apart from that, the journey to Russia had a
strong personal influence on Metchnikoff. He had
formerly left his country under the impression of the
fatal error committed by the revolutionaries in
killing Alexander II., an error which had led to a
protracted reaction. He had therefore remained very
sceptical concerning the Russian revolutionary move-
ment ; he thought that the necessary reforms might
come from a Government evolution. But, during his
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 219
sojourn in Russia, he was able to appreciate events
which modified his ideas to a great extent. He was
impressed by the contrast between the progressive
aspirations of the " intellectuals " and the inertia or
noxious activity of the rulers. The policy of Casso,
the Minister of Public Instruction, who ordered
regular raids in the universities, the persecution of
Poles and Jews, the encouragement of the " black
band " obscurantism, giving plenary powers to
creatures of darkness like Rasputin and his peers,
all these things excited indignation in a man who
placed the free development of human culture above
He thus ceased to count upon the progressive
evolution of a Government which was incapable of
solving the complicated problems of Russian life, and
henceforward thought that those problems would be
solved by the " intellectuals " apart from the Govern-
ment and in opposition to it.
Further researches on the intestinal flora Forty Years' Search for
a Rational Conception of Life.
SINCE Metchnikoff had conceived the idea that a con-
siderable part was played in human life by the in-
testinal flora, his thoughts had centred around a study
which he thought profitable : that of the influence of
intestinal microbes on the normal and on the patho-
So, on his return from Russia, he took advantage
of the fact that an epidemic of infantile cholera had
broken out in order to continue his former investiga-
tions of that disease. The numerous cases which he
thus studied allowed him finally to establish the
specific part of the B. proteus as well as the similarity
between infantile cholera and Asiatic cholera. This
time he succeeded in contaminating, not only young
anthropoid apes, but also new-born rabbits, and that
not only through sick children's excreta, but by pure
cultures of the proteus, which eliminated every doubt
of the specificity of this microbe.
Metchnikoff explained the contamination of chil-
dren exclusively breast-fed, either by the presence of
a carrier personally refractory, among the entourage,
or by the transport of dirt, by means of flies, on the
objects which infants so readily put into their mouths.
He therefore advised preventive means of absolute
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 221
hygiene and cleanliness, especially where suckling
infants are concerned.
During the year 1912, he studied the intestinal flora
and the influence of divers food diets. He experi-
mented upon the rat, an omnivorous animal whose
mode of feeding resembles that of man. The rats
were divided into three lots, of which one was kept
to a meat diet, another to a vegetarian regime,
and the third to a mixture of both. The meat diet
was least favourable, and the best results obtained by
the mixed food.
These observations led Metchnikoff to the study
of other problems intimately connected with the
He undertook a series of researches in collabora-
tion with his pupils, MM. Berthelot and Wollman, on
the conditions which cause the diminution within the
organism of the toxic products of intestinal microbes.
They found that the quantity of these products was
very small in those animals which feed on vegetable
or fruit containing much sugar, such as carrots,
beetroot, dates, etc. This is explained by the fact
that the products of the decomposition of sugar are
acids which prevent the development of putrefying
microbes. But the sugar, rapidly absorbed by the
walls of the small intestine, only reaches the large
intestine in a much reduced quantity, for it is only
up to a certain point during its journey that the
cellulose of vegetables, rich in sugar, protects that
substance. The question, therefore, was to find the
means of making it reach the large intestine in
greater quantities. In the intestine of a normal
dog, an innocuous microbe was found, the Glycobacter
peptonicus, which decomposes starch into sugar.
222 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
Metchnikoff made some laboratory animals ingest
this microbe together with food, and ascertained that
it reached the large intestine and decomposed in it
the starch of farinaceous food into sugar, of which the
acid products prevented the swarming of putrefying
microbes. By this process it is possible to reduce to
a minimum and even sometimes to eliminate the
production of phenol and indol in rats subjected to
a mixed diet and made at the same time to ingest
cultures of the lactic bacillus and of the glycobacter.
Metchnikoff applied these different diets to him-
self and to other individuals and obtained concordant
However, he ascertained that it is not only the
food diet which regulates the quantity of microbian
poisons contained in the organism ; that quantity
sometimes varies very much in spite of an identical
diet. He thought that a very important part of
influence is due to pre-existing microbes which pre-
vent or favour the development of microbes of putre-
faction. All these questions, complicated by the
richness and variety of the intestinal flora, still de-
manded a long series of laborious researches.
At the end of the winter he felt tired, and we
went to the seaside during the holidays. But the
sharp sea air did not suit him ; he had a beginning of
cardiac asthma and nearly fainted during a walk.
We therefore had to come away from the sea, and
went inland, to Eu. At the beginning of our stay,
Metchnikoff did not feel well, walking tired him, he
suffered from cardiac intermittence ; it was only
gradually that his condition improved and he was
able to write the preface to a Russian edition of his
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 223
This book was entitled Forty Years' Search for a
Rational Conception of Life, and the articles record
the evolution of his ideas and his search " not only
for a rational understanding of life, but also for the
solution of the problem of death, which is so full of
contradictions . ' '
This collection of articles enables us at the same
time to follow the gradual transition from the pessim-
ism of his youth to the optimism of his maturity.
His first writings 1 relate to the discords of human
nature and the lack of a solid basis for morals.
But, already in 1883, he concluded an opening
Causerie at the Naturalists' Congress in Odessa, by
the following words : " The theoretical study of
natural history problems, in the widest sense of the
word, alone can give a sound method for the com-
prehension of truth and lead to a definite conception
of life or at least to an approach to it."
Another article, The Curative Forces of the Organ-
ism, sums up his phagocyte theory, and states the
fact that the organism possesses special powers of
struggle against enemy elements.
In 1891, he wrote The Law of Life, in which we find
the dawning idea that the lack of harmony in human
structure does not make a happy existence and a
rational code of morals impossible. Morals must
consist " not in rules of conduct adapted to our
present defective human nature, but on conduct
based upon human nature modified, according to
the ideal of human happiness."
The Flora of the Human Body, published in 1901,
1 Education from an Anthropological Point of View, The Matrimonial
Age, The Conception of Human Nature, The Struggle for Existence in a
General Sense. See Bibliography.
224 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
is a study in which Metchnikoff 's optimism assumes a
definite form, for he speaks of the efficacy of certain
means of struggling with our lack of harmony.
The last chapter in the book, " A Conception of
Life and of Medical Science," introducing the word
Orthobiosis, strikes the optimistic chord, winged and
conclusive, which must result from victory over the
disharmonies of human nature. This is Metchnikoff's
ultimate formula, summing up the problems of life
and of morals :
The ethical problem reduces itself to this : to allow the
majority of human beings to reach life's goal, that is, to accom-
plish the whole cycle of a rational existence to its natural end.
We are still very far from that. We can but sketch the rules
to follow in order to attain this ideal. Its final realisation will
demand more scientific researches, which must be allowed
the widest and freest scope. It is to be foreseen that existence
will have to be mollified in many ways. Orthobiosis demands
an active, healthy, and sober life, devoid of luxury and excess.
We must therefore modify present customs and eliminate
those extremes of wealth and poverty which now bring us so
many evils. As time goes on, when Science has caused present
evils to disappear, when men no longer tremble for the life
and welfare of their dear ones, when individual life follows
a normal course then Man can attain a higher level and
more easily devote himself to exalted goals.
Then Art and pure Science will occupy the place which
is due to them and which they lack at the present moment in
consequence of our many cares. Let us hope that men will
understand their true interests and contribute to the progress
Many efforts are necessary, much self-sacrifice, but they
will be attenuated by the consciousness of an activity
directed towards the real goal of human existence.
First our pleasures die, and then
Our hopes, and then our fears, and when
These are dead the debt is due.
Dust claims dust and we die too.
Unpleasant incidents The fabrication of lacto-bacilli St. Leger-
en-Yvelines Return to Paris First cardiac attack Evolution
of the death-instinct Notes on his symptoms.
THE end of 1912 had some unexpected emotions in
store for us.
Metchnikofi had always been able to congratulate
himself on the cordial hospitality which he had found
in France, and to the end of his life he remained
deeply grateful for it.
But, in any country, incidents may occur about
which it would be unjust to generalise when they are
due to individuals or to particular limited circles,
as was the fact in the present case. In spite of
the broad and generous ideas so widespread in
France, a sudden current of narrow nationalism
became manifest, at this moment, in certain quarters.
Foreigners were accused of invading the country, of
occupying lucrative posts and increasing the diffi-
culties of the bitter struggle for existence. At first,
only vague allusions were made, but, little by little,
the attacks of that nationalist circle went beyond all
bounds of justice and decency and turned into brutal
226 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
provocations. The contemptuous word meteque was
One newspaper especially led a furious propaganda
and hesitated at no means of overwhelming its
victims, one of whom was MetchnikofE.
Those coarse attacks might have been ignored
with the contempt which they deserved had they not
been echoed by a writer in a serious publication.
Dr. Roux then wrote a reply in the same paper, and
the campaign ceased.
A proverb says with truth, " Slander away ! some-
thing will always stick." And it was thus in this
case. MetchnikofE was reproached with having made
money by his scientific discoveries. The story of his
whole life and the fact that he left no fortune should
suffice to answer this calumny, yet I am obliged to
dwell on it, though I should have preferred not to do
so. The incident is too characteristic of MetchnikofE
to be omitted in this biography, which must be a
faithful testimony. The calumny was based on a real
fact, but the interpretation of it was absolutely false.
After MetchnikofE's experiments on the lactic bacillus,
a notion of the hygienic power of pure sour milk
began to spread among the public. A manufacturer
had the idea of preparing it on a large scale, according
to the new scientific principles, and wished to form
a company to that effect ; he asked MetchnikofE to
recommend to him some one whom he could entrust
with the technical work of preparing the pure curded
milk. It happened that we were just then trying to
find a post for a young couple in whom we were
interested, and whose child was my husband's god-
daughter. He trained his protege in the technique
required, and was therefore able to recommend him.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 227
A short time later, the manufacturer declared that he
could not be sure of the success of his enterprise with-
out the guarantee of the name of Metchnikoff, whose
researches had proved the advantages of the prepara-
tion in question. After consulting the legal adviser
of the Pasteur Institute, Metchnikofi consented to
this, without of course having any pecuniary interest
in it ; the formula chosen was, " sole provider of
Professor Metchnikofi." The undertaking succeeded,
and our protege's future was assured. Metchnikoff
himself, however, was attacked and accused most
unjustly, though he had never made any personal
profit whatever from the enterprise. And yet, when
his friends told him that it had been very reckless on
his part thus to expose himself, he answered that he
thought it impossible to hesitate between the welfare
of a whole family and the possibility of gossip. His
reasoning was imprudent and perhaps erroneous, but
he never hesitated between doing a kindness and the
possible unpleasant consequences it might have for
himself. If some people could not understand him,
it was because he was far from the commonplace,
" not like other people," a quality often misunderstood
Such are the facts. " Honi soit qui mal y
pense ! "
The desire to lessen the ills around him was, in
general, the cause of heavy anxieties in his later years.
He had learnt that the discovery of an industrial
process, of which the realisation required capital,
would be an excellent investment. He immediately
wished to make his friends profit by it, as well as him-
self, in order to alleviate material difficulties. But
until the end of his life the undertaking had no
228 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
results, and he was obsessed by the fear of having
given bad advice to those who followed him.
He knew not how to refuse, even when he should
have done so ; therefore he was odiously exploited.
Often he worked, in his rare leisure moments, for
people who were unworthy of his kindness. During
the last years of his life, all these incidents grieved
him so much that he used to say he felt the burden
of existence. His soul was darkened, he felt very
depressed, and his health suffered.
We spent the summer holidays of 1913 at St.
Leger-en-Yvelines, a pretty place on the edge of the
Rambouillet forest. In his choice of a holiday resort,
my husband was always guided by the desire to find
a place favourable to my sketching, and St. Leger
answered the purpose wonderfully. The fields with
their vast horizons, the forest with its graceful
bracken and carpets of softly-tinted heather, the
mysterious ponds, all went to compose an admirable
symphony, full of artistic suggestion.
Elie himself was gay and full of spirits. He
worked in the morning, and we spent the rest of the
day in the forest. He often read aloud ; he rested
and enjoyed the peaceful calm, pure air, and verdure
which he loved so much.
He had arranged to take advantage of these
holidays to execute work of which he had been think-
ing for a long time. As it has been said above, he
thought that the life instinct was only developed
gradually and produced at the same time an optimistic
conception of life ; he wished to verify this per-
sonal impression by the psychological evolution of
divers other thinkers. He turned to Maeterlinck, as
a representative of modern ideas. This author,
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 229
mystical and pessimistic in his youth, had acquired
in his maturity a far more optimistic conception of
life. He himself explained this change by the
influence of circumstances, but MetchnikofE saw in
it a deeper cause, connected with the progressive
evolution of the vital instinct which, by bringing
equilibrium with it, suggests optimism. The study
of Maeterlinck's works confirmed his opinion.
Time flowed peacefully between rest and these
occupations ; at the end of the holidays, we con-
gratulated ourselves on their result on my husband's
health ; on our return, his friends thought him looking
well. Yet on the 19th October, about seven in the
morning, he had a terrible cardiac attack without
any apparent cause. I found him seated at his desk,
and was terrified by his appearance ; his lips were
blue, and he was breathing with difficulty. And yet
he was writing, and this is what he was writing :
SfcvBES, 19th October 1913, 7.45 A.M.
This morning, after a good night, my heart was working
well ; I had from 58 to 59 regular pulsations. But, as I rose,
I suddenly felt acute pain along the sternum ; at the same
time began a strong crisis of tachycardia. I had never in my
life felt anything like it. ...
Here he had to stop as the crisis was becoming
intolerable, but a few hours later he took up his pen
19th October, 3 P.M.
The crisis lasted till one o'clock (six hours' duration).
There were times when the pain in the chest was unen-
I was thirsty and drank hot, weak tea ; I vomited ; I felt
wind hi the stomach and the intestine. About noon the
pain decreased, but the heart-beats were frequent and extremely
230 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
irregular. I lunched in order not to alarm my wife, though I
feared to aggravate the attack by filling my stomach.
But the opposite happened. From the first mouthfuls (I
naturally eat very little) the pain became more tolerable
and the pulse less frequent. After lunch, everything became
normal again ; the pain ceased, the pulsations slackened (78-
80 per min.) and became much more regular. Intermittence
was rare, and I several times counted 100 regular beats in
succession. I remained absolutely conscious during the whole
crisis, and what chiefly pleased me is that I felt no fear of
death, which I was expecting at every moment. It was not
only reasoning which made me understand that it was better
to die now, whilst my intellectual powers had not yet gone
from me and I had evidently accomplished all of what I was
capable ; I resigned myself also in feeling, and quite serenely
to the catastrophe which was coming upon me and which
would be far from unexpected.
My mother, who had suffered from heart attacks during
a great part of her life, died at 65. My father died of apoplexy
in his 68th year.
My eldest sister succumbed to an oedema of the brain ;
my brother Nicholas died at 57 of angina pectoris.
Undoubtedly my cardiac heredity is a bad one. Already
in my youth, I suffered from my heart. At 33 I had such
cardiac pains that sometimes I had to rest after walking a
few paces. At 34, I had much giddiness and a feeling of
heaviness in the head. I could not read a few lines, a poster
even, without a painful sensation. In 1881, during relapsing
fever, I had severe cardiac intermittence, very fatiguing and
only relieved by small doses of digitalin.
I afterwards had periodical attacks of intermittence but
never any tachycardia, at least none that lasted more than a
few seconds. A little tincture of strophanthus used to relieve
me during intermittence. I ended by consulting Dr. Vaquez,
but the treatment he prescribed gave me no relief. As I
attributed my condition to poisoning by the toxins of intestinal
microbes, I resolved to give up raw food and to purge myself
now and then with Carabana water. The success of this
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 231
treatment was indisputable, and in 1897 the intermittence
ceased. In the autumn of 1898 I was beginning to suffer
from polyuria ; I consulted Albaran, who counselled ContrexS-
ville water, but this cure caused the appearance of albumen
in my urine. In 1898 I consulted Norden at Frankfort and
Leube in Paris during the Exhibition of 1900. Neither found
anything alarming. Norden had told me that I had symp-
toms of arterio-sclerosis inherent to my age (53). I adopted a
mixed diet ; I took, regularly, sour milk prepared with
cultures of the Bulgarian lactic bacillus, and, during some
years, my health was quite satisfactory.
It was only after my journey to Russia in 1909 that a
notable aggravation supervened. I felt acute pains in the
chest, along the sternum, especially after eating or walking.
In 1911 the intermittence reappeared. In January 1911,
I consulted Dr. Heitz in order to know whether I could under-
take an expedition in the Kalmuk steppes, where hygienic
conditions are very unfavourable. Dr. Heitz found my heart
hypertrophied, some slight galloping noise, the blood-pressure
(Pachon's apparatus) 17-16-15. He said, however, that I
might undertake the journey, but added, " People die suddenly
with less the matter than that with their hearts." The journey
went well, though I suffered from frequent intermittence and
pains along the sternum when I walked.
After my return, my heart was fairly satisfactory.
What consoles me especially is that I have preserved my
activity, my passion for work, and my intellectual powers.
But, naturally, I am ready to die at any moment.
At the beginning of the summer I was sounded by Dr.
Manoukhine and Professor Tchistovitch ; both thought the
heart-sounds satisfactory, but Manoukhine was rather struck
by the weakness of the first aortic sound whilst the second was
very strong. I had frequent intermittence, but with intervals
of normal pulsations. Latterly I have felt better in that
respect, and the pain along the sternum only occurred in
Whilst preparing for my end, I am glad that I can face it
with courage and serenity.
232 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
As I look back upon my life, it seems to me to have been
as " orthobiotic " as possible.
If it may seem premature to die at 68 years and 5 months,
it must not be forgotten that I began to live very early (I
published my first scientific work at 18) ; that I have had
many emotions during my life ; that I was, so to speak, in a
state of continual ebullition.
The polemics concerning phagocytosis might have killed or
finally enfeebled me much earlier. At times (for instance, I
refer to Lubarsch's attacks in 1889 and those of Pfeiffer
in 1894) I was ready to rid myself of life.
Moreover, I only began to follow a rational hygiene (accord-
ing to my opinion) after I was 53 years old and already had
symptoms of arterio-sclerosis. I have been fairly successful
in combating intestinal putrefaction (phenols and indols), 1
but I could not succeed in getting rid of abundant clostridium
butyricum which were implanted in my intestine.
To sum up, I rejoice that I have had an existence not devoid
of sense, and I feel some satisfaction in considering my con-
ception of the problem of life as being accurate.
As I prepare to die, I have not the shadow of a hope of a
life beyond, and I calmly look forward to complete annihilation.
It is possible that having very early begun a very intense
life, I have attained at 68 a precocious satiety of living, just
as certain women cease to menstruate earlier than the great
majority. EL. METCHNIKOFF.
P.S. I believe everything is in order in view of my end
(my will, my affairs, etc.).
P.S. Let those who think that, according to my principles,
I should have lived a hundred years, " forgive " me my pre-
mature end in view of the extenuating circumstances above-
mentioned (intense and precocious activity, excitable tempera-
ment, nervous disposition, and late beginning of the rational
diet). E. M.
1 28th June 1914. I have again analysed my urine and I again find
indican in fairly large quantities in spite of a diet which is as rational as
possible. I am trying to elucidate this strange contradiction.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 233
The very next day he felt well enough to return
to his work.
When urged to settle down in Paris in order to
avoid the fatigue of the journey, he replied that the
peace and pure air of Sevres were indispensable to
his health, that the journey did not fatigue him in
the least, but on the contrary provided him with
wholesome exercise and a pleasant walk. Knowing
how prudent he was, I did not dare to insist for fear
of mistaking what was really best for him. And life
gradually resumed its normal course. . . .
For a long time Metchnikofi had been observing
himself very attentively ; he took regular notes on
the influence of the food diet which he followed ; by
the analysis of his urine, he sought for indications
respecting the toxic products of his intestinal flora ;
he studied upon himself the advance of senility,
whitening of hair, etc.
Since his crisis he had adopted the habit of writing
occasional notes on his psychical state. This is what
he wrote on the 23rd December 1913 at Sevres :
Two months and more have passed since I wrote the pre-
ceding lines. During that period my health has been satis-
factory ; nevertheless I have wondered every day whether it
would be my last.
I am therefore hastening to write my memoir on infantile
The cardiac intermittence has been more or less frequent,
yet every day I have had periods of regular pulsations (58-66-72
per minute) as usual.
The day before yesterday I contracted a bad cold,
accompanied by a little fever. Wondering if it would de-
generate into pneumonia, I faced anew the possibility of a
near end, and I resumed the analysis of my thoughts, feelings,
234 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
As my 70 years draw near to their close, it seems to me
that a feeling of satiety with life, what I call the " natural
death instinct," is gently beginning to evolve.
When, in autumn 1910, experimenting with typhoid
cultures, I had soiled my face and mouth, I naturally said
to myself that it might give me typhoid fever. I washed my
face and beard with soap and a solution of sublimate without
considering that I was safe against the infection. I reasoned
that it would be preferable to contract the disease and to die
of it. (At my age typhoid fever is almost always fatal. I
had never had it, and might therefore consider myself in a
state of receptivity.) It is fine to fall on the battlefield,
especially at an age when life and activity are already on
the wane. But all that was pure reasoning ; instinctively I
still felt a great desire to live, and it was with joy tha 4 } I
counted the days which separated me from the danger of
having contracted typhoid fever. I felt much relieved a
fortnight after the incident, considering that the limit of
incubation was passed.
Thus reasoning and feeling or instinct were not in accord.
Since then, in the three following years, a modification has
taken place in my psychical condition.
The prospect of death frightens me less than before. During
my cardiac crisis of the 19th October 1913 I even felt no fear of
death, and my satisfaction at my recovery was less than before.
I think it is that difference in quantity which constitutes
the first symptoms of indifference towards death, an indiffer-
ence which is hardly perceptible at first.
Satiety with life is sometimes observed in old people of
80 ; it is not surprising to feel the first approach of it
about 70, especially in the case of a man like myself who
began very early to lead a very intense life.
Other special circumstances influence even more this
precocious satiety of life. As I become more indifferent to
my own life I feel a more and more acute anxiety for the
health, life, and happiness of those who are dear to me.
I am especially troubled by a consciousness of the im-
perfection of modern medicine. In spite of the progress
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 235
realised in these latter days, it is still powerless against a
multitude of diseases, threatening us on all sides.
Pulmonary lesions (tuberculosis, pneumonia, etc.), the
nephrites, and an infinite quantity of other diseases can
yet neither be prevented nor cured. So we live in constant
fear for those we love. When medicine shall (as I am per-
suaded) have conquered all these evils, one cause of the
bitterness of life will cease but that is not yet the case.
That is why, besides the weakening of the life-instinct, a
resignation towards death grows in us, as a means of no
longer feeling the ills which afflict our neighbours.
With time, when that source of unhappiness has been
eliminated by medicine, old age will be more attractive, and
an orthobiotic life will become normal and realisable.
At the ages of 50, 60, 65, I felt an intense joy in
living, such as I described in my Studies on Human Nature
and Optimistic Essays. In the last few years it has lessened
Scientific work still provokes in me an invincible enthusi-
asm, but I am becoming more indifferent to many of the
pleasures of life.
And indeed he no longer had the joyous soul of
former days ; into his life a funereal note had crept,
low but continuous and obstinate. He gave all the
more energy to the study of those questions the
solution of which was to bring about the reign of
orthobiosis. He spent the whole winter in researches
on the intestinal flora and on the completion of his
studies on infantile cholera.
In the spring, on the occasion of his anniversary,
he wrote the following :
SfcVBBS, l&th May 1914.
I have to-day entered my 70th year ; it is a great event
for me. As I analyse my feelings, I realise more and more
the weakening of my " life-instinct."
In order to verify my impressions, I wished to hear again
236 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
the musical compositions which formerly used to make me
shed tears of enthusiasm (for instance, Beethoven's 7th
Symphony or Bach's aria for the violin). Well, my impres-
sionability towards music has very much lessened. In spite
of the facility with which old people weep, I hardly shed a
single tear, save with rare exceptions.
I observe the same change in other circumstances.
This spring, the blossoming of flowers, buds, bushes, and
trees, all this renascence of nature, has not excited in me a
shadow of the emotion of preceding years.
Rather I felt a melancholy, not on account of my coming
end, but because of the consciousness of the burden of existence.
There is no question for me now of the old joy of living ;
my predominant feeling is infinite anxiety for the health and
happiness of those I love. I now so well understand Petten-
koffer, who committed suicide at 84 after losing all his
family. Their death had evidently been precocious because
of the impotence of medicine. At every step, one comes
across cases where neither hygiene nor therapeutics can do
anything. How many are infected with tuberculosis, no
one knows how or where. What is to be done to avoid it ?
And the consequences of measles, of scarlet fever, perhaps of
a simple sore throat, followed sometimes by tuberculosis
or nephritis !
What is the use of being able to foretell, by means of the
proportion of urea in the blood, the precise moment of the
death of an " azotemic " patient when you cannot prevent it
or cure him ?
This imperfection of medical science prevents many
from reaching true orthobiosis, and it is understandable that,
seeing the present state of medicine, the feeling of the " burden
of existence " may be precocious, as in my case.
But it is indubitable that, in spite of the slowness with
which medical science is developing, it will in the future
reach a degree which will enable us to cease to tremble any
longer before all sorts of incurable diseases. Orthobiosis will
then appear, no longer under its present incomplete form,
but as the solid and essential basis of life.
Return to St. Leger-en-Yvelines Norka Studies on the death of the
silk-worm moth War declared Mobilisation.
THE drawback of the holidays consisted, for Metchni-
koif, in coming away from his laboratory and in
the impossibility of following his diet in a hotel or
a boarding-house. We therefore resolved to hire a
cottage in some quiet place, to organise a small
laboratory, and to continue our usual mode of life.
St. Leger-en-Yvelines, where we had spent part of
the preceding summer, answered all our requirements.
We took a small villa there and called it " Norka,"
which means in Russian " little hole," " little refuge,"
and came there for the holidays in July 1914.
Elie seemed pleased to be there ; thanks to the
laboratory, he could easily vary his occupations, for
continuous reading fatigued him. His reflections
having led him to the problem of natural death, he
had for some time been seeking for a subject on which
he could study the mechanism of the phenomenon.
He had formerly studied the May-flies (Ephemeridse),
predestined to a natural death by their rudimentary
buccal organs, incapable of use in feeding. But
the life of those insects, a life of a few hours or a
few days at the most, was too short to allow the
necessary researches. The males of the Rotifera,
which are also deprived of buccal organs and even of
238 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
digestive organs, were too small in size for physio-
logical experiments. Thus, those two examples of
natural death among multicellular beings were un-
suitable to the projected study.
He found a more favourable subject in the moth
of the silk-worm (Bombyx mori) ; the rudimentary
buccal organs of that insect make all feeding im-
possible and predestine it to a natural death. The
dimensions of the silk-worm moth are large enough
and it has a life duration of twenty-five or thirty
days, therefore sufficient to allow the study of the
mechanism by which its death is brought about.
Metchnikoff procured a quantity of silk-worms, and
soon the moths hatched and covered all the mantel-
pieces and tables in Norka with white flakes. He
ascertained that it was not hunger which brought
about the death of the moths, for their organism was
not in the least exhausted.
The nutrition of the latter takes place at the
expense of the fatty substance which remains after
the metamorphosis of the chrysalis into a moth. The
dissolution of this fatty substance produces toxins
which pass into the urine. Thus the obvious cause
of the death of the moth is an acid intoxication by
toxic urine secreted in the bladder. As the latter
does not empty itself, uraemia becomes inevitable.
The majority of moths contain no micro-organisms
which could suggest death by infection.
The only theoretic objection against a natural
death might consist in the existence of " invisible
microbes." Indeed, the question of invisible microbes
revealed in certain infections perturbed Metchnikoff's
mind to such an extent that, during his last illness, he
used to say that it would have been a curse to his
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 239
ulterior activity, a sort of ghost preventing all definite
conclusions in problems connected with the absence
or presence of microbes. The last word oh natural
death, he said, will only be spoken when, owing to
the improvement of the microscope, those microbes
which are as yet invisible to us will become visible.
Nevertheless, as far as can be judged at present, the
death of the Bombyx mori is due, not to external
causes, but to the structure of the insect itself, and is
therefore a natural death.
During these holidays, Metchnikofi also wrote
reminiscences of his friend the physiologist Setche-
We went quietly for fairly long walks ; Metchni-
kofi rested on the shores of his favourite lake (Vilpert),
and his health was very satisfactory.
After the intense heat, some rain came and the
weather became ideal ; there was a perceptible
lull in nature ; the underwood was becoming purple
with heather ; the corn was ripening ; harvest had
begun, and sheaves stood up in the fields. All was
calm and peaceful ; we never tired of the charm
of the forest, of the fields, of the beautiful rustic
surroundings, and our souls sang in unison with
Nature. . . .
Suddenly, like a flash of lightning in the pure sky,
the news of the war burst out !
The possibility had so often been mentioned in
late years that no one believed in it. Even now, on
the eve of the catastrophe, it was hoped that all
would settle down. . . .
Until the last moment Metchnikoff refused to
believe in it ; he could not admit that a pacific
1 In the Russian Review, Messenger of Europe.
240 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
solution was impossible. "How is it possible that
in Europe, in a civilised country, mutual interests
should not be reconciled without killing ? " he said.
" A war would be madness, even from the point of
view of Germany, who risks having to face three
great powers. No, war is not possible."
And yet war was spreading all over Europe.
The situation of France seemed critical, for the
country had just gone through a series of internal
storms. The labour question, that of income tax,
and that of the three years' military service had
raised sharp controversies ; the Caillaux affair had
revealed hidden sores in political life ; the insane
assassination of Jaures, of which the reason was
still unknown, gave rise to the blackest prognostica-
Already on the 28th July, date of the declaration
of war by Austria against Serbia, anxiety had become
intense, but it was hoped that Russia would settle
matters between the two countries, and that the
trouble would remain local.
On the 1st August, Germany declared war on
Russia, and it became obvious that the storm was
coming on apace. The aspect of life suddenly
changed; a feeling of dread and expectancy un-
nerved everybody ; mobilisation was mentioned ;
automobiles at full speed hurried along the roads ;
the harvest was hastily gathered. . . . We could
no longer work, go for walks, or admire nature with-
out a feeling of heavy anxiety.
We went about like automatons, all our thoughts
centred on one point the threatening, inevitable
war. Everything had put on a sinister aspect, and
Nature herself joined in the general gloom ; the
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 241
weather became stormy, thunder rolled alarmingly,
heavy clouds hurried and met in a gigantic struggle,
evoking the image of other coming struggles. During
the night of the 1st August the storm never ceased,
we could not sleep ; all night long, frenzied auto-
mobiles raced along the high road, sounding their
lugubrious horns. In the middle of the night, we
heard some one knocking at the doors of the police
station opposite. What was happening ? In the
darkness, illumined by flashes of lightning, we saw
horsemen with lanterns ; they were messengers
bringing the orders for mobilisation. It was pro-
claimed the next day.
The population gathered at the mairie, a grave,
silent crowd ; the few words exchanged only con-
cerned war and partings. Old men, who had lived
through 1870, were low-spirited ; young ones, on the
contrary, were excited.
We had to think of our return home, which might
be difficult later. We went into the forest for the
last time ; the evening was mild and calm after the
storm. The peace and beauty around us were such
that we longed not to believe in the terrible reality.
But we had to bid farewell to all that had charmed
us. We went once again into the meadows near
Norka. The hayricks were standing in rows, their
soft, golden silhouettes harmoniously outlined against
the hilly background purple with heather. We sat
down on the mown grass. Suddenly, in the calm of
the evening, bells began to sound. It was not the
distant and poetic call for vespers, nor the sad sound
of the passing bell, but the hard, sinister, ill-
omened tocsin, warning the whole countryside, down
to the most distant, most peaceful hamlets and to the
242 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
wood-cutters in the forest, that mobilisation had
commenced. . . .
Another storm broke out in the night. Again the
rolling of the thunder shook our nerves and seemed
like the echo of distant battles ; again mysterious
automobiles and horsemen raced along the road, and
eveiything, every sound, every shadow seemed
We did not feel any fear, but a kind of insupport-
able nervous tension. Later, when we were much
nearer real danger, we did not experience this electric,
almost morbid feeling.
The next day, Germany had declared war on
It was only with much difficulty that we found
a carriage to take us to the station. On the road
we were constantly being passed by various vehicles,
crowded with soldiers and young men going off. The
little station was full of people, the train also. Moved
and excited, the people shouted, " Vive la France ! "
and sent friendly salutes to unknown soldiers in the
train. Women, seeing their men off, were trying to
be gay ; they encouraged the departing ones, and
only wept after they were gone. The general im-
pression, both moral and material, was excellent ;
every one seemed equal to his task, conscious of
his duty, and desirous of fulfilling it well. The
mobilisation seemed well organised, everything was
being accomplished without any flurry or bustle,
even the trains were almost punctual.
All small personal interests and party quarrels
which had latterly poisoned life now suddenly dis-
appeared ; everywhere the desire to be useful was
noticeable ; people became better, there was more
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 243
sympathy, more solidarity; the distance between
classes seemed to decrease, the common trial made
There was beauty in that moment, for it showed
that the greatest of evils might yet exalt and purify
the human soul.
Return to Paris The deserted Institute Memoir on the Founders of
Modern Medicine Metchnikoff's Jubilee Last holidays at Norka.
THIS was but the beginning of the war ; soon it
spread with vertiginous rapidity, and made its cruel
destructive force felt.
On our return from Norka, we found every-
thing on a war footing. The very next morning,
Metchnikoff hurried to the laboratory. He only
reached Paris with some difficulty, all means of
communication being encumbered by soldiers. He
had left the house nervous and excited but full of
courage and energy. I shall never forget his return
home. . . .
I was awaiting him as usual, just outside the
station, and, as he got out of the train, I did not
recognise him. I saw a stooping old man, bent as
under a heavy burden ; his usual vivacity was gone,
and had given place to the deepest depression.
He ibid me in a broken voice that the Institute
was already deserted ; that it was under the orders of
the military authorities, and completely disorganised
for scientific work. The younger men were mobilised ;
the laboratories empty ; the animals used for ex-
periments had been killed on account of the departure
of the servants, and for fear of a lack of food. Every-
thing that had been devoted to the service of science
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 245
and of research into means of preserving life had
been handed over to the service of war. Normal and
cultured life was arrested. And that was the out-
come of civilisation.
Metchnikoff felt as if he had suddenly been dropped
into the abyss of centuries, into the times of human
savagery. He could not accustom his mind to the
idea of such a fall ; it seemed to him a paradox, an
impossibility, that civilised peoples could not do
without sanguinary fights in order to solve questions
of mutual relations.
The events which were taking place agitated and
depressed him all the more that he had not the
possibility of becoming absorbed in scientific investiga-
tions ; he was completely thrown off his balance.
And as, one by one, the news came of the death
in action of several of the young men who had left
the Institute, Metchnikoff's grief knew no limits. He
could not bear the idea, now a terrible reality, that
these brilliant young lives should be sacrificed,
victims of those who should have directed the peoples
towards peace and a rational life, and who, instead of
that, threw the most precious part of humanity into
the abyss of death. War became a dark, sinister
background to his daily life. The victims of war
were not only those who fell on the battle-field, but
included him whose whole life -effort had been
directed towards the conservation of human exist-
ence and the search for rational conceptions. The
contrast between his aspirations and the cruel reality
had been to him a blow which his sensitive and suffer-
ing heart was not fit to bear.
The Germans were advancing rapidly. Then
came the sad days of panic, when the inhabitants
246 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
were leaving Paris in numbers and the Government
started for Bordeaux. At night, the sky was swept
by the gigantic, luminous sword of the searchlights ;
the rumble of camion could be heard in the dis-
tance. . . .
Metchnikoff, however, had no personal fear what-
ever. He very simply decided on his course of
action, which was to remain at the Institute if his
presence there could be of use ; if not, to retire to some
quiet place where he could work. As there was
hardly any staff left at the Institute on account of
the mobilisation, he did not go away, but, on the
contrary, we came to live in Paris, the communica-
tion with Sevres being very difficult.
The day we arrived was that on which the first
German aeroplanes appeared, and they dropped bombs
near the St. Lazare station just as we were alight-
ing from the train. For some time after that, they
carried out a raid above Paris every Sunday.
In spite of the disorganisation of his whole life,
Metchnikoff had succeeded in resuming his work to a
certain extent. He took advantage of an oppor-
tunity to observe an old dog who was suffering from
diabetes, and hastened to examine his organs as soon
as he died, whilst they were still fresh. He had for
some time supposed that diabetes might be an in-
fectious disease ; yet he was unable to discover any
specific microbe either in the humors or in the organs
of the dog. But he succeeded in provoking symp-
toms of the disease (traces of sugar in the urine) in a
healthy dog, by inoculating him with the pancreatic
gland of the diabetic dog. He was much encouraged
by this result, and would have liked to continue
his researches, but was unable to do so because
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 247
of the general disorganisation and the impossibility
of obtaining animals for experiments. He had to
content himself with continuing his memoir on
infantile cholera and his observations on the silk-
As he was almost altogether precluded from
laboratory work, he began to write a study on " The
Founders of Modern Medicine," in order to demon-
strate, by concrete examples, the importance of
positive science in its application to life. This is
what he said in his preface to the book :
These pages were written under special circumstances. If
not in the actual hearing of guns, it was in expectation of it
that I had to spend several weeks in my Paris laboratory,
now under war conditions. These meant an almost complete
cessation of any scientific activity in our Institute.
For fear of a lack of food, the animals used for our experi-
ments had been killed, which deprived us of the possibility
of proceeding with our researches.
The stables of the Institute were filled with cows who
provided milk for the hospitals and children's homes.
The greater number of our young collaborators, assistants,
or laboratory attendants were mobilised, and only the female
employees and old men remained. One of the latter, I
found myself in the impossibility of pursuing my investiga-
tions and in possession of much leisure. I made use of it to
write this book in the hope that it might be helpful.
It is not intended for physicians, for they know all that is
expounded in it, but for young men who are seeking a scope
for their activities.
We may be sure that the insane war which broke out in
consequence of the lack of knowledge or of power of those
who should have watched over peace, will be followed by a
long period of calm. It is to be hoped that this unexampled
butchery will, for a long tune, do away with the desire for
fighting, and that soon the need will be felt of a more rational
248 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
activity. Let those who will have preserved the combative
instinct direct it towards a struggle, not against human beings,
but against the innumerable microbes, visible or invisible,
which threaten us on all sides and prevent us from accom-
plishing the normal and complete cycle of our existence.
The results acquired by the progress of the new medical
science allow us to hope that, in a more or less distant future,
humanity will be freed from the principal diseases which
After describing the state of medical science before
Pasteur, Lister, and Koch, MetchnikofE compared
with it modern medicine, created by these three
Founders, and showed the great horizons opened by
them to the medicine of the future.
On the 26th of September 1914, whilst we were still
in Paris, he had, in the laboratory, an attack of tachy-
cardia, which lasted three hours but was much less
violent than that of the year before. The winter,
however, passed fairly well in spite of the emotions
and continuous excitement caused by the war, and he
had no other attack until April 1915, when again he
had a slight tachycardiac crisis of a short duration.
Yet he was very much changed : his hair was much
whiter, his movements were slow, and his figure bent.
His infectious gaiety and vivacity had disappeared,
but he remained energetic and enthusiastic in his
work, and gained more and more in serenity.
Little children in the street called him " Father
Christmas," and came confidingly to ask him for
presents. They knew him well, and were aware that
his pockets were always filled with sweets for them.
He used to say that his growing love for children
was the revelation of the grandfatherly instinct, for
which he had reached the proper age. He especially
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 249
loved one of his god-daughters, little Lili ; he had
become attached to the child on account of her kind
heart and exceptional sweetness, and also because,
from the cradle, she had shown a marked preference
for him. And yet his love for children was not to
him a source of joy, for anxiety on their account pre-
dominated over other feelings.
In spite of the physical change which had super-
vened, his brain continued to work untiringly as in
the past, and he tackled new problems with youthful
courage and boldness. He had planned a work on
the sexual question, which, according to him, was
treated erroneously, with the result that grave dis-
harmonies occurred in human existence.
Thus he reached some quite revolutionary con-
clusions respecting education and marriage. He
thought that morality should be set upon a quite
different basis, new and rational ; and that was the
question which he prepared to treat.
The 16th of May of that year was his seventieth
His satisfaction was great at having reached the
normal limit, of age, for he saw in that a conclusive
proof of the efficacy of his hygiene. Indeed, he
showed on that day a sort of rejuvenation : his aspect
was quite different, he was gay and animated as he
had not been for a long time.
The Pasteur Institute celebrated his jubilee. In
spite of the absence from " The House " of many
members on account of the war, the library filled with
people, and the fete had a cordial and intimate
character. Dr. Roux's speech 1 will remain the best
description of E. Metchnikoff and of his scientific
1 Annals de Vlnttitut Pasteur, Jubil6 d'E. Metchnikoff, 1915.
250 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
activity. He himself responded to all those mani-
festations of sympathy by a spirited speech, in which,
a propos of his own particular case, he expounded his
ideas on senility and the duration of life in general.
This is what he wrote on that same day in his note-
16th May 1915. To-day I have at last accomplished my
seventy years ! I have attained the normal limit of life, a
limit mentioned by King David and confirmed by the statisti-
cal researches of Lexis and Bodio. 1 I am still capable of
work and of reflection. But the changes in my psychical
state which I had observed a year ago have become sensibly
accentuated. The difference in acuteness both of pleasant
and painful sensations is becoming more and more marked.
Agreeable sensations are becoming weaker ; I am now in-
different to many things which I used to appreciate very
It is useless to say that I am indifferent to the quality of
my food ; my need of musical impressions has become so
much less that I hardly feel the desire to satisfy it. The
charm of spring no longer touches me and only provokes
sadness in my mind.
On the other hand, my anxiety for the health and happiness
of those I love is getting more and more acute. I find it
difficult to understand how I ever could bear it.
The powerlessness of medicine grieves me more and more,
and, as a last straw, the war has interrupted all the work that
had been undertaken against disease. In these conditions, it
is not astonishing that I should feel a growing satiety with
existence. Last year [16th May 1914 to 16th May 1915] I
had two attacks of tachycardia, during which I should have
been glad to die, but in general my health is satisfactory and
that sustains me. What would have become of me if, to
crown my misfortunes, I had fallen ill ! I certainly no longer
fear death, but I desire to die suddenly during a heart attack
and not to go through a long illness.
1 Annales de I'Institut Pasteur, 1915.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 251
My comparative longevity is not due to family heredity
(my father died in his 68th year, my mother in her 66th, my
sister also, my eldest brother at 45, my second brother at 50,
the third in his 57th year ; my grandparents I have not known).
It is to my hygiene that I give the credit for having attained
my 70 years in a satisfactory condition. I have taken no raw
food for eighteen years and I introduce as many lactic bacilli
as possible into my intestines. But it is but a first step ; in
spite of all, I am being poisoned by the bacteria of butyric
fermentation. However, I have practically reached the normal
term of life and I must be satisfied. I have, so to speak,
accomplished the program me of a " reduced orthobiosis."
When macrobiotics become more perfect, when people have
learnt how to cultivate a suitable flora in the intestines of
children as soon as they are weaned from their mother's
breast, the normal limit of life will be put much further back
and may extend to twice my 70 years. Then, also, satiety
with existence will appear much later than it has done in
To-day they celebrated my jubilee at the Pasteur Institute,
which touched me very much, in spite of my distrust of senti-
mental manifestations, for I realised their sincerity. I should
have liked to set out a programme of the researches which
should be accomplished by the Pasteur Institute, but I feared
to detain my audience too long.
I believe that Science will solve all the principal problems
of Life and Death and that she will enable human beings to
accomplish their vital cycle by real orthobiosis, not by a
reduced caricature of it as in my case. Nevertheless, I con-
sider the experiment practised upon myself as having already
given some result and that is to me a real satisfaction.
We spent that summer a few weeks at Norka,
where Metchnikofl completed his researches con-
cerning the death of the silk-worm moth.
We went for delicious walks ; we spent all the
afternoon by the lake or under the pines in the
heather, reading and working. Once only, during a
252 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
walk, lie had a strong cardiac intermittence, but as
a rule he felt well. I could see, however, that he was
obsessed by a grave preoccupation which he did not
express. Later, during his last illness, he confessed
to me that during the whole of that stay at St. Leger
he had feared to die suddenly during one of our walks.
The thought of my isolation weighed on his mind and
he hid his anxiety so as not to alarm me. . . .
With a view to the work which he had planned on
the sexual question, he interested himself in the
influence that their sentimental life had had on the
activity of great men, and we read together the
biographies of Beethoven, Mozart, and Wagner.
Elie was more than ever desirous of making our
holidays as pleasant as possible, as if he already felt
that they were our last. Here are more extracts from
his note-book :
ST. LEGEB-EN-YVELINES, 24*A June 1916.
When saying that I did not fear death, I had in view the
dread of annihilation. That fear, manifested during a long
period of life and disappearing towards the end, may be com-
pared with the fear of darkness which children instinctively
feel and which also disappears gradually and naturally. When,
towards the end of life, the fear of nothingness ceases, no
desire remains for a future life, for the immortality of the
soul. It would even be painful to me to think that the soul,
surviving the body, could watch, from beyond, the misfortunes
of those who remain on the earth. On the contrary, towards
life's decline, a desire for complete annihilation becomes
He spent the autumn collecting and preparing
the materials he required for his book on the sexual
function. It was a relief from the sad impressions
of the war and the deserted laboratory. But new
troubles were in store for us ; I became ill, and had
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 253
scarcely recovered when we heard the news of the
death of a nephew who was very dear to us. The
death of the young had always deeply moved Metchni-
koff, and it was so in this case. It was another
weight thrown into the already descending scale.
In spite of all, he continued to work with enthusi-
asm, planting young trees that future generations
might enjoy their shade.
Bronchial cold Aggravated cardiac symptoms Farewell to Sevres
Return to the Institute Protracted sufferings Intellectual pre-
occupations Observations on his own condition The end
IF in this sad last chapter I occasionally dwell on
details which may seem insignificant in themselves,
it is because, at this supreme moment of Elie Metchni-
koff's existence, everything was full of significance, for
everything converged to emphasise the powerful
unity and the ascending and continuous progress of
His attitude in the face of illness and death was a
teaching, a support, and an example. That is why,
relating the story of his last days, I piously describe
Towards the end of November, he caught a slight
cold, which did not prevent him from leading his
usual life, but which, nevertheless, was the starting-
point of the illness which took him from us.
On the 2nd of December, during a walk, he suddenly
felt a cardiac commotion such that he thought he
was dying. For hours, his pulse remained inter-
mittent and very rapid, and from that day he felt
unwell but continued to go to the laboratory.
On the 9th of December his condition became worse
and forced him to interrupt his normal life. All the
doctors were away or very busy on account of the war,
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 255
and it was only on the 1 1th that Dr. Eenon could give
him a consultation at the Laennec Hospital. He found
Metchnikoff's heart very tired and nervous, prescribed a
treatment, and told us to come back in twenty-five days.
But the disease was making giant strides. In the
night of the 12th to 13th a first attack of cardiac
asthma supervened, an extremely painful one ; we
had the impression that the end was near. Elie
suffered agonies but remained morally calm and
ready for death, as he had ever been since his first
heart attack, two years previously. He repeated that
he had accomplished his task and run through his
vital cycle ; that what he could yet do would be but
a supplement, and that it was better to die than to
outlive his own decadence.
He only wished not to suffer too long, but that
humble desire was not to be realised. We spent two
more nights at Sevres, terrible nights not to be
forgotten if one had centuries to live, and we then
decided to go to a nursing home in Paris, as it was
imprudent to remain any longer isolated as we were.
Having heard of Metchnikoff's illness, Dr. Koux
offered to receive us at the Pasteur Institute in a
small lodging which was now free, the house-physician
who had occupied it having been killed.
Dr. Widal, in whom Metchnikoff had absolute con-
fidence, came to Sevres on the 14th and found myo-
carditis. Thanks to an absolutely incomprehensible
phenomenon, Elie had suddenly ceased to realise the
rapidity of his pulse ; he had 160 beats in a minute
and only perceived less than half ; it was therefore
easy to keep the truth from him.
After a last night of suffering we left our Sevres
nest, which we had so loved. Leaning on my arm,
256 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
he slowly walked through the little garden and gazed
for the last time at the home that we were leaving
for the unknown. . . . He looked worn and bent
under the weight of suffering, but he was quite calm,
and his eyes, though firm and gentle, already seemed
to me to be looking very far away.
The automobile bore us slowly from Sevres to the
Pasteur Institute, and we found ourselves in the
small flat which had been inhabited by the young
doctor who had been killed in the war. He had only
spent a short stage of his life there. How long should
we remain ? And what road should we take when
we left it ? We tried to smile, though our hearts
were terribly heavy, in order to cheer each other.
But, in the course of the day, we were surrounded
by friends full of solicitude, the tension relaxed, and
we felt a growing sense of comfort and security. No
more nights of mortal dread and loneliness, with no
help at hand ! That thought alone inspired courage
and hope. In case of need, I had only to send down
to the next floor to ask for a doctor.
For a few days, Elie felt much better, perhaps on
account of the mental relief, but his heart was weak
and his pulse extremely rapid. Drs. Widal, Martin,
Veillon, Salimbeni, and Darre came to see him every
day ; during the whole of his long illness, they never
ceased to show him the most attentive and devoted
care. They attempted by every means to save him
from pain, for, alas, they had no hope of curing him.
Nothing was neglected, and many still greater suffer-
ings were spared him. 1
1 For instance, Dr. Widal, very early in his illness, had advised a saltless
diet, which caused the infiltration in the tissues to remain comparatively
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 257
The war was an inexhaustible and passionately
interesting subject of conversation ; Elie read a
number of newspapers and listened with avidity to
every news from private sources. Often, too, scien-
tific questions were discussed, which continued to
interest him intensely. These talks were an in-
Feeling infinitely grateful towards his medical
advisers and friends, he showed himself a most docile
patient, following their prescriptions with absolute
punctuality. When his condition grew worse and
he felt no hope whatever of his recovery, he often
used to say, " What is to be done ? the doctors can
do nothing, for medicine is powerless. Unhappily,
it will remain so for a long time. Much work will
have to be done to rid humanity of the scourge of
diseases. But, surely, one day science will succeed
in doing so ; that will be chiefly through prophylaxis
and rational hygiene. There will also be a new
science the science of death ; it will be known how
to make it less hard."
After lunch and a short sleep, he received the daily
visit of his friend Dr. Roux, with whom he talked in
the full intimacy of friendship and affection. He
confided to him his apprehensions and desires, and
felt unlimited gratitude for his kindness to us, often
saying to me, with tears in his eyes, " I knew Roux
was a kind man and a true friend, but I see now that
he is incomparable." Other friends also did their
utmost to serve him and to show their sympathy.
He had the great joy of feeling himself beloved and
surrounded with an atmosphere of real kindness.
Many times he said to me, " Now, only, have I
appreciated the warm-heartedness of the French
258 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
at its full value. Do not fail, in my biography, to
emphasise how deeply I feel it, and how grateful I
am. I want them to know it."
Yet all the care and devotion of which he was the
object could neither arrest the fatal progress of disease
nor spare cruel suffering to him' who had thought of
nothing but relieving the pains of others. All our
efforts were as flowers scattered over a tomb ; he,
poor tortured one, was slowly, consciously sinking
into it through the implacable logic of Fate. From
the beginning of his illness, he foresaw the issue ; he
lived in constant expectation of death, on the threshold
of which his calm and serenity remained as unalter-
able as were his patience and resignation.
After a temporary and comparative lull, which
lasted until the end of December, the disease began
to progress again, and almost every week brought a
fresh alarming symptom. It was especially during
the night that the pain, treacherously, reappeared.
After dropping asleep fairly early, he would begin to
breathe with difficulty and then awake in an inde-
scribable state of anguish ; perspiration drenched his
head, neck, and chest, several towels often being
required to dry him. His breathing was hard ;
during bad attacks, the wheezing of his bronchial
tubes was terrifying.
He would sit up, his hands clenched, his face blue
and contracted by suffering, his darkened lips apart,
his eyes dilated the face of a man on the rack. He
gasped like a suffocating man ; at last a tearing
cough supervened, followed by expectoration, and
the attack gradually subsided.
For a time we were able to relieve him without the
use of narcotics. As long as there was a ray of hope
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 259
not of recovery, but of a bearable life and further
work he wished at all costs to avoid the influence of
narcosis. He breathed fumes of pyridin or ether, he
smoked Escouflaire cigarettes, and inhaled various
other things. In order to sleep after an attack, he
ate a few biscuits, and I sprinkled his head with a
menthol solution, with which I damped his temples
and forehead. That eased him, and sometimes he
slept again for a few hours.
But how many were the nights of insomnia and
suffering ! How many times did he call for death
as a deliverer, and say that he resigned himself to
live for my sake only !
And in spite of the martyrdom he endured, he
always had gentle words, a caress, a consolation
even ! He constantly returned to the thought that
he had nothing to complain of, that he had had a
large share of happiness and good fortune in having
accomplished his task, and even arrived at the de-
velopment of the natural death-instinct.
All those who saw him every day knew that he
was courageous and patient, every one admired his
serenity, but no one could realise the degree of his
courage and patience, for no one had seen and lived
through those miserable nights.
Often, even, when asked how he was, he said " not
bad ! " after a terrible night, saying to me afterwards
in explanation, " Why grieve them, since it cannot
be helped ? "
At the beginning of our stay in the Institute, he
was not yet quite bedridden. After his morning
toilet, he would lie for some hours on a sofa, reading
almost continuously, newspapers, scientific reviews,
and many works in connection with the book he had
260 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
planned on the sexual function, of which he wrote
only the introduction and a few lines of the first
Another question occupied him at that time, that
of first-born children. Certain data led him to think
that men of genius were but rarely the first-born of
their parents, and he sought for every possible
information on the subject. In his constant desire
to improve life-conditions, he even thought that a
demonstration of this fact might have a desirable
influence on the increase of population in France
after the war ; if it were proved that the most success-
ful children are not the first-born, perhaps the system
of having two children only would be given up in
order to have a chance of giving the country a more
His reflections on the sexual questions led him to
seek for experimental means of studying gonorrhoea.
He thought of inoculating the gonococcus into the eye
of new-born mice and entrusted M. Rubinstein, the
only worker left in the laboratory, with these experi-
ments. The latter began them and obtained en-
couraging results, but he left Paris in the spring and
the work remained unfinished.
MetchnikofTs mind never ceased to. work unless
1 He expounded the theory that ideas on the sexual function had been
falsified through fear of venereal diseases at a time when people did not know
either how to avoid or cure those diseases. He showed that the condem-
nation of a natural function by divers religions was based on that fear. He
analysed the deplorable consequences of that, and set forth the necessity of
returning to more wholesome ideas, more in conformity with nature and
allowing the study and avoidance of many evils. He thought that, in this
connection, a new direction should be given to the education of children
and to marriage. He then examined the part played by the sexual function
in the lives of men of genius and, with that object, read many biographies
and literary works. During his illness he read books concerning Victor
Hugo and Napoleon, J. J. Rousseau's Confessions and even parts of the
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 261
interrupted by acute pain ; until the very end, his
brain never failed him. He often used to say
how far he was from any mystic aspirations, and
how sure he was of remaining a rationalist
until the end. And such was the case. Faithful
to himself, not even in the most painful moments
did he feel a desire to look for support outside
the ideas and principles of his whole life. Yet
his soul was sad and full of care ; the war grieved
him utterly, every newspaper he read renewed his
sorrow. When a severe engagement, Verdun for
instance, was going on, he lost the little sleep he had,
and his agitation became painful.
He was deeply disillusioned by the Germans.
Having always felt great esteem for their scientific
work, he had believed in their high culture, and now
he was absolutely disconcerted by the mentality
which they manifested during the war.
Neither could he understand how the war had
been allowed to come about. He thought it ought
to have been avoided, and considered the authorities
guilty for not having done so. He said that nothing
could compensate the harm done by this insane
The deserted laboratories, the interruption of
scientific work, filled his soul with melancholy. For,
he said, all the great, all the real questions should
have been solved by Science and were kept waiting. . . .
He also had material worries, the war having
brought great perturbation in his affairs. The fate
of his mobilised pupils preoccupied him constantly.
The least indisposition, however trifling, of those he
loved made him unhappy. His sensibility, which had
always been very marked, increased still more, and
262 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
consumed him ; it surely was one of the causes that
had worn his heart out. When already very weak
and ill, he constantly thought of giving pleasure to
those who were with him ; he read innumerable
reviews and periodicals, and would tell each friend
what he had found of particular interest to the latter,
even when speech was difficult to him. His gentle-
ness and cordiality were most touching during the
whole of his illness, though he preserved his usual
outspokenness. ... It seemed to me that this
offended no one ; they all understood Elie now.
He sought a refuge from his sufferings in his own
ivory tower ; these sufferings themselves were to him
a source of observations. He studied his body and
his soul as he would have studied any subject under
experiment. Every day he wrote down his auto-
observations, and carefully read the diary which I
kept for him.
During the whole of the winter he had ups and
downs. Towards the end of December the cough and
respiratory symptoms increased, and at the beginning
of January he expectorated clots of blood, due to
a passive congestion of the right lung.
On the 19th January, some liquid appeared in the
pleura on the same side. Pleurisy persisted for a
whole month and necessitated three punctures.
Every time we feared to tell him that the puncture
was necessary, but he received the news with com-
plete coolness, saying that he had always been in
favour of radical measures.
After the third puncture, which took place on the
19th February, a marked relief supervened, and the
improvement lasted for some time ; it was the only
moment when we saw a ray of hope.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 263
Though keeping to his bed, he worked a great deal,
read, and received not only his friends but other
visitors. At the beginning of March and at the end
of April he again expectorated blood, and the terrible,
tragical nights began again. Yet the days were
During that period, he had the pleasure of seeing
some of his pupils again, and of receiving several
Russian deputies and journalists. They talked to
him of political events, of the war, of the moral state
of Russia. All that interested him irnmp.Tisp.1y ; he
plied them with the most varied questions. It must
be remembered that, before that interview, we had
lost all touch with Russia.
During the whole of May he again had ups and
downs, but the progress of the disease was indisput-
Tachycardia was constant, urine more and more
scanty, the swelling of the legs never decreased, cough
and oppression occurred frequently even during the
day. Elie awaited his seventy-first birthday with
impatience. Often during the night, after a painful
attack, he would count the days, hours, and minutes
which separated him from that date. At last it
arrived. Here are the lines which he added to his
notes on that day :
16th May. Against all expectation, I have lived until
this day. I have reached my 71 years. My dream of a rapid
death, without a long illness has not been realised. I have
now been bedridden for five months. After several crises of
tachycardia, following upon a slight grippe with asthma, I
had congestion of one lung with pleuritic exudate. Though
some improvement followed after that, nevertheless I am
tormented by fits of sweating followed by cough and oppres-
264 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
sion. I suffer chiefly in the night from those attacks ;
they provoke insomnia which can only be combated by
My psychical state is twofold. In one way, I should like
to get well, but, on the other hand, I see no sense in living
any longer. Illness has not provoked in me any fear of
death, and I am more deprived than formerly of the joy of
living. The reawakening of spring leaves me quite indifferent.
There can be no question for me of that pleasure which con-
valescents often feel, nor indeed of any pleasure. To the
despair that I feel in the face of medicine's powerlessness to
cure the ills of my friends is added the feeling of its powerless-
ness towards my own illness. I think that my desire to re-
cover and to continue to live is connected with practical
The war has compromised our finances, our income from
Russia has practically disappeared. If I die, my wife may
find herself in a very difficult situation. Given her lack of
practical notions, that may lead to very sad results. Yet it
is quite impossible to straighten our affairs before the end of
the war and the re-establishment of normal conditions.
These were the last words he wrote in his book of
notes ; his hand had become weak and trembling ;
he tired very soon, and henceforth I wrote under his
dictation. On the 18th June, one month before his
cremation, he dictated to me for the last time, and
this is what he said :
This is the seventh month that I have been ill and it
brings my thoughts back to the gravity of my condition.
I therefore continually realise how much satisfaction I have
derived from life during my long years. The gradual disap-
pearance of my "life-instinct," which already began a few
years ago, is now more marked, more precise. I no longer
feel that degree of pleasure which I felt only a few years ago.
My affection for my nearest and dearest shows itself much more
by the anxiety and suffering provoked by their diseases and
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 265
sorrows than by the pleasure I derive from their joys or
Those to whom I describe my feelings tell me that satiety
with living is not normal at my age. To that I oppose the
following : Longevity, at least to a certain point, is hereditary.
Now I have already mentioned, on the occasion of my 70th
anniversary, that my parents, sister, and brothers died before
reaching my present age. I knew neither of my grand-
parents, which shows that they could not have been very old
when they died.
Let us now turn to the profession, since it is an established
fact that it has an influence on the duration of life. Pasteur
died at 72, but for a long time he had been unable to do
scientific work. Koch did not reach the age of 67. Other
bacteriologists died at a much earlier age than I (Duclaux,
Nocard, Chamberland, Ehrlich, Buchner, Loeffler, Pfeifier,
Carl Fraenkel, Emmerich, Escherich).
Among those bacteriologists of my generation who are still
living the majority have already ceased from working. All
that should indicate that my scientific life is over and confirm
at the same time the fact that my " orthobiosis " has actually
reached the desirable limit.
He was anxious to prove that his end, which
seemed premature at first sight, did not contradict
his theories, but had deep causes such as heredity
and the belated introduction of a rational diet. He
had only begun to follow it at fifty-three. Facts
corroborated him after his death, for the post-mortem
examination showed that the heart lesions were of
long standing. He himself thought they went back
at least to 1881, when he had had a very grave
relapsing fever. The doctors even wondered how he
had lived with his heart in such a state, and only
accounted for it by the strict regime which he had
followed during the latter part of his life.
And indeed when it is remembered how pugna-
266 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
cious, how vehement he was always, so to speak,
in a state of ebullition, feverishly active, intensely
sensitive it must be admitted that his life really
held more than an ordinary life of longer duration.
He was very desirous that the example of his
serenity in the face of death should be encouraging
and comforting. It should prove that, at the end of
his vital cycle, man fears death no longer ; it has
lost its sting for him.
Early in June his condition became still worse.
The nights were so painful that, every evening, recourse
had to be had to pantopon. 1 It was with the greatest
impatience that he awaited his " dear Darre and dear
Salimbeni," as he called them.
After Dr. Darre had finished his complete and
thorough medical examination, we three remained
talking around Elie's bed for a short hour. He often
recalled his personal or scientific memories when he
was not too weary ; we talked of the war, of medical
questions ; often, too, we would evoke, with Salimbeni,
recollections of our journey to the Kalmuk Steppes.
We loved that peaceful hour, which ended by an
injection of pantopon, the only relief, alas, that could
be procured for him. He would thank Dr. Darre with
gratitude, and drop his poor weary head on the pillow,
awaiting in absolute security the blessed sensation of
warm heaviness which pervaded him, for he knew
that sleep and rest from his sufferings would not be
long in coming. The spectre of tragical nights never
ceased to haunt us.
Until the hot weather came, he was quite com-
fortable in the small flat in the Pasteur hospital ; the
temperature there had been perfectly regular all
1 Pantopon is a narcotic drug prepared from opium.
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 267
through the winter ; but now he began to be incom-
moded by the heat.
M. Roux then proposed that we should be trans-
ferred to Pasteur's old flat ; the rooms were spacious
and much cooler. This idea rejoiced and touched
Elie very much. As he thanked M. Roux, he said to
him : " See how my life is bound with the Pasteur
Institute. I have worked here for years ; I am
nursed here during my illness ; in order to complete
the connection I ought to be incinerated in the great
oven where our dead animals are burnt, and my
ashes could be kept in an urn in one of the cupboards
in the library." " What a gruesome joke ! " answered
M. Roux, really taking those words for a joke. But
directly after he was gone Elie turned to me with an
anxious look and said, " Well, what do you think of
my idea ? " I saw by his earnest expression that he
meant what he said, and I answered that I thought it
a very good idea. The Pasteur Institute had become
his refuge, the centre of all his scientific interests;
he loved it ; he had spent his best years there. Let
his ashes be laid there some day ; it would be in
perfect harmony with his past. Let us only hope
that would not be too soon ! But why had he given
his words that jesting form which must have misled
M. Roux ? He explained it to me : knowing how
deeply conscientious his friend was, he did not wish
to express his desire as a dying wish in order that he
should feel no obligation. A simple jest, on the
contrary, left him absolutely free.
On the 26th June, Elie was carried into Pasteur's
flat ; it was a very great satisfaction to him, it brought
him nearer his laboratory. Now and then, very
seldom now, he thought he might return there one
268 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
day ; lie said I should wheel him there in his bath
chair. " I know I could scarcely work there myself.
But perhaps I might still play the part of a ferment,
be useful to my pupils by giving them advice. I am
leaving so much unfinished work which it would be
interesting to go on with : the question of intestinal
flora, that of diabetes, which surely is an infectious
disease but that will have to be proved, and my
experiments on the subject were scarcely begun. I
think the study of gonorrhoea will give very interesting
results when they succeed in inoculating it in new-
born animals. And the question of tuberculosis is
well started ! I could still help my pupils and en-
courage them if I were a little better ! . . . But I
have no illusions ! I must live now only from day
to day. . . ."
Those words were uttered with heart-rending
He continued to get worse. . . .
It was fortunate that pantopon should have given
him good nights, for attacks of oppression now super-
vened several times during the day ; tachycardia was
continuous, the heart was weakening. The quantity
of urine diminished ; it often did not surpass 250 cubic
centimetres, and no diuretic succeeded in increasing
it ; the legs remained swollen, ascitis was beginning to
become visible ; in the night he occasionally grew
At the beginning of July he wished to sit up ; he
spent part of the afternoon in an armchair, his legs
lying on cushions. We thought it was a good sign,
but in reality he found it difficult to breathe lying
down. Several times he asked me to play to him,
very soft music, as noisy sounds wearied him. I
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 269
played Mm some Beethoven, some Mozart ; the last
time it was a Chopin prelude.
On the 9th his temperature went down in an
alarming way to 35 '2 C. (95 F.). For the first time
he would not write down his ordinary observations.
" What is the good ? " said he, " it has no longer any
interest." Yet the next day he did so, for the last
time. On the llth and 12th he put down his tem-
perature, and glanced superficially at the notes I
had written. On the 12th, about five o'clock in the
morning, he had a bad fit of breathlessness followed
by coughing, and brought up large clots of very red
blood. He smiled faintly. " You understand what
that means," he said, adding some tender words.
I wheeled him to his bed, which he never left again.
On the 13th, in the early morning, he felt very ill.
Calmly and gently he warned me to be ready. " It
will surely be to-day or to-morrow."
My heart breaking, I asked him why he said that ;
was he feeling very weak ? or suffering very much ?
" No," he said, " it is difficult to say what I feel ;
I have never felt anything like it ; it is, so to speak, a
death-sensation. . . . But I feel very calm, with no
fear. You will hold my hand, will you not ? "
How can I describe those last three days ? He
preserved all his lucidity and serenity, often smiling
at me and drawing me towards him. He inhaled
oxygen very often, as breathlessness became almost
On the 14th there was to be a matinee perform-
ance of Manon Lescaut, and remembering that his
god-children had long wished to see that opera, he
had had a box taken for them. He was now quite
uneasy about it. " What ill-luck," he said, "if it
270 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
happened just before and prevented them from
going. In any case they must not come here on
their way to the theatre, so that if it happens they
will not know, and can still enjoy the performance."
Thanks to pantopon, he spent a very good night.
He awoke about five o'clock, but remained so quiet
that I thought him asleep. When I rose about six
he held out his hand to me and told me he had been
awake for a long time. He talked to me tenderly, in
the full intimacy of our affection ; he spoke sweet,
unforgettable words. He made me promise once
again not to give way to grief. " At first, our friends
will help you, and then work, that infallible remedy,
and duty. . . . You will have that of writing my
biography. Remember how much I wish the last
chapter to be complete. You alone can write it, for
you have seen me all the time ; I have told you all
my thoughts, and yet ..." I understood that he
had occasionally, out of pity for me, hidden his suffer-
ings and his sad thoughts. But he did not know how
often I guessed what he did not say ; love and pain
have a dumb language, more eloquent than any
" You will hold my hand when the moment comes,"
he repeated. " But do not think I am afraid, now
that it is near. No, I assure you, I have an absolute
serenity of soul ! I spent a divine night. It seemed
to me that I was already half outside life. This night
has taught me many things. . . . Everything which
troubled me, everything that seemed so disturbing, so
terrible, like this war for instance, seems so transitory
now, such a small thing by the side of the great
problems of existence ! . . . Science will solve them
some day." He ceased speaking. He seemed
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 271
illumined by a very exalted feeling ; it was like the
last chord of his harmonious soul. What a consolation
if he could have died then !
But life is cruel. He lived through two more
days of suffering. On the 14th he inhaled oxygen
almost continually. He asked for pantopon, but we
feared to give him too much. I told him it would
induce such continuous sleep that he would not even
be able to enjoy it. " But an eternal sleep is pre-
cisely what I want ! Do understand that now
nothing is left to me but pantopon. What is the
good of making me last ? Is this a life ? A few
days or a month have no importance when
one is not going to recover. And you cannot
wish to prolong my sufferings." His breathlessness
increased ; he said, " Give me your hand ; stay near
me ! " I knew what he meant ; he had the " death-
His poor hands were hot and warmed my cold
ones. . . . The next day I could not warm his hands,
ice-cold for ever.
The whole day he awaited with impatience the
hour for pantopon. About nine o'clock, when Dr.
Darre came in, he said, " Dear Darre, at last ! "
There was no talk that evening, he was so weary.
With what anguish I awaited the stroke of midnight,
which ended those two dread days ! He had been
mistaken by barely one day. The night was not bad,
in spite of breathlessness and some fits of coughing.
The next morning he felt better. He had not read
the papers the day before, to-day I read him the com-
muniques in the Petit Parisien, he said it was enough.
He also turned the pages of a book he had recently
begun to read, La Science et les Alkmands.
272 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
I told him how pleased I was to see him better.
" It is true," he said, " to-day I have no death-
sensation, but I beg you, have no illusions ! "
Always that preoccupation of breaking the shock
for me. He made me bring a pocket-book with some
money in it and a few envelopes ; in each of them he
made me place notes of similar value, then with his
already shaking hand, he himself wrote on each
envelope the value of the notes multiplied by their
number, and explained that it was to help me to find
quickly what I should require after the catastrophe.
He ate better at lunch than he had done lately ; but
already at two o'clock the breathlessness increased.
Yet he did not look pale ; he had preserved his
rosy complexion. As he inhaled the oxygen, he was
shaken by a hiccough. He pressed my hand. " It
is the end," he said, " the death rattle ; that is
how people die." He looked at his watch on the
small table, it marked four o'clock.
" No," he said, " it must have stopped. Four
o'clock struck some time ago." And he smiled.
" Is it not strange that it should have stopped before
I ? Go and see what time it is."
I ran out to see the clock from the window of
another room ; it was twenty minutes to five. I met
some one in the passage and asked him to go quickly
to fetch one of the Institute doctors. Then I begged
Elie not to have such ideas, and tried to cheer him.
" But, my child, why do you want to calm me ? I
am quite calm ; I am only stating facts," he said,
adding tender words.
At that moment Salimbeni came in. Elie said to
him : " Salimbeni, you are a friend ; tell me, is it
the end ? " And as he protested, he added^ " You
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 273
remember your promise ? You will do my post-
mortem ? and look at the intestines carefully, for I
think there is something there now." MM. Roux and
Martin then arrived. The feeling of weight in the
intestines of which he complained was mentioned.
He did not know that he had ascitis in the peritoneum.
As I was attending to him I felt him move sud-
denly, and said, " I beg you, do not make such sudden
movements ; you know it is not good for you." He
did not answer. I raised my head ; his was thrown
back on the pillows, his face had assumed a blue
tinge, the white of the eyes alone could be seen under
the half -closed lids.
Not a word, not a sound.
All was over. 1
Then an abyss of oblivion. . . .
I saw him again, stretched on his deathbed. He
was white, cold, and dumb. His face bore a calm
and very serious expression. He looked like a
martyr who had at last entered into rest. Death
had marked his face with no dread seal. The lids
had closed of their own accord, and he seemed to be
sleeping after great lassitude ; one might have
thought that, with his usual kindness, he wished to
spare us all too painful an impression. . . .
All through the night and the next morning his
face preserved the same expression.
In the afternoon Salimbeni performed the autopsy.
Then he was laid in his coffin ; twenty-four hours had
elapsed since the end. Wrapped in a white sheet,
which framed his fine face, he had the appearance of
a biblical prophet.
Now his expression had assumed absolute serenity,
1 It was 5.20 by the conventional war time, 4.20 in reality.
274 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
illumined by gentleness and kindness. He had a look
of elevation, grandeur, and beauty which was really
divine. It was an apotheosis. His beautiful soul
beamed in its full purity ; neither suffering nor any
earthly preoccupation had any hold on it. He gave
an impression of eternal rest.
It was his final image, a splendid one, the last . . .
The bier was closed and covered with a heavy
black pall. On life also a blacker and heavier pall
had fallen. The light had gone out.
Two days later, on the 18th July, he was carried
to the cemetery of the Pere Lachaise, to be cremated
in all simplicity, as he had wished. Faithful to his
ideas, he had wished for a lay funeral, with no speeches,
flowers, or invitations.
His bier disappeared into a large sarcophagus ; on
each side black curtains fell to hide what was going
on. . . . Then one hour of heavy silence whilst the
poor body was being consumed by the flames. . . .
A death silence. . . .
And that was all. . . .
The mercurial, vivacious child, good - hearted,
intelligent, and precocious ; the young man, ardent,
impetuous, passionate, a lover of science and of all
that was exalted ; the mature man, a bold thinker,
an indefatigable investigator, eager, generous, tender,
and devoted ; the old man, in everything faith-
ful to himself, but progressing in serenity, shining
with an ever softer light, like a mountain peak in the
setting sun ; the martyr at last, enduring suffering
with patience and resignation, seeing the approach
of death without fear, observing it as he had observed
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 275
The hour of silence was over ; the incineration
accomplished. Of his body, little was left a handful
of ashes. They were enclosed within an urn and
placed in the library of the Pasteur Institute.
But his beautiful, ardent soul, his audacious and
fertile ideas, all that rich inner life which had
developed into a harmonious and puissant sym-
phony, all that cannot be dead, cannot disappear !
The ideas, the influence we give to life must persist,
must live ; they are the sacred flame which we hand
on to others and are eternal.
THE life and work of Elie MetchnikofE are so inti-
mately bound together that, in a biography, it is im-
possible to separate them. That is why the descrip-
tion of his work necessarily has been dispersed along
the story of his life ; but, just as, in order to judge of a
work of art, one has to draw back and contemplate
the whole, we must also, after following the evolution
and successive stages of E. Metchnikoff's scientific
works, take a full view of his work as a whole.
He was a born biologist ; everything connected
with life interested him. In his childhood, he ob-
served plants and animals. At the age of fifteen, he
became acquainted with microscopic beings ; they
aroused in him such powerful interest towards the
primitive forms of life that, from that moment, not
only his future path was marked out for him but also
his method of starting from the simple to elucidate the
complex. He was imbued with Darwin's theory
of evolution ; having begun by the study of inferior
animals, he began to look for their connections with
He endeavoured to establish the continuity and
the unity of phenomena in all living beings. Accord-
ing to his method of studying first what was simplest,
he turned to embryology, for in the egg and the
embryo it is possible to follow step by step the trans-
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 277
formation of the simple to the complex and to see the
origin and development of all the constituent parts
of the organism. Moreover, the embryo is exempt
from secondary complications, due to the multiple
external conditions of post-embryonic life.
Metchnikoff was able to establish, from embryo-
logical data, that the development of lower animals
takes place according to the same plan and under
the same laws as that of higher animals. In all of
them, the segmentation of the egg is followed by the
formation of embryonic layers, of which each gives
birth to cells and to definite organs. Superior forms
repeat, in their embryonic life, the evolution cycle of
inferior forms. 1
This common plan in the embryology of all
animals established their genealogical continuity and
strengthened the Darwinian theory.
Metchnikofi's studies, carried out on the various
groups of animals, contributed towards the founda-
tion of comparative embryology. Owing to the
comparative method, he had made himself familiar
not only with the morphological and functional con-
tinuity of divers organisms, but also with that of
their constituting cells ; a comparison between the
latter and unicellular beings was inevitable. That is
why, having ascertained that the mobile cells of the
lower Metazoa absorbed foreign bodies by inclusion,
he naturally concluded that that phenomenon was
similar to digestion in unicellular beings.
Having established the fact of intracellular diges-
tion in lower animals, he extended it to certain cells
1 Thus the parenchymella, phagocytdla, and gastrula stages correspond
in the embryo with the adult form of certain very primitive Metazoa and
even to a colony of unicellular animals.
278 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
of the higher animals ; thus his phagocyte theory
Seeing that unicellular beings, like the mobile cells
of Metazoa, englobe, not only food, but foreign
bodies, he asked himself whether this was not at
the same time a defensive action. Such a possi-
bility brought no surprise to a zoologist, accustomed
to see that, in the struggle for existence, animals
often devoured their enemies.
All the materials for the building up of the phago-
cyte theory were therefore ready in MetchnikofFs
mind when he asked himself, as by an intuition,
whether the white globules of our blood, globules
so similar to amoebae, do not play the part of a
defensive army in our organism when they envelope
in accumulated masses intrusive bodies injurious to
The thought was but the result of a preparatory
work already accomplished ; it was the butterfly
escaping out of the chrysalis.
MetchnikofE had recourse to his method of simpli-
fication in order to solve the question.
The organism of the higher animals being ex-
tremely complicated, he went down as far as the
transparent larva of the starfish (bipinnaria) in order
to watch with his own eyes the phenomena which
take place within it. He introduced a rose-thorn
into the transparent body of the larva, and noted
the next day that the mobile cells in the latter had
crowded towards the splinter, like an army rushing
to meet a foe.
The analogy of this phenomenon with inflamma-
tion and the formation of an abscess was striking.
Metchnikoff said to himself that since most diseases
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 279
in the higher animals are accompanied by inflam-
mation and provoked by microbes, it was chiefly
against these microbes that our defensive cells had
to struggle. He named the defensive cells phagocytes.
He confirmed his hypothesis by another observa-
tion, equally simple. In a little transparent crusta-
cean (Daphnia) infected by a small parasitic fungus,
(Monospora bicuspidata), he was easily able to
observe the struggle between the animal's mobile cells
and its parasites.
These two simple observations served as founda-
tion and supports to the bridge by which Metchnikoff
connected normal biology with pathological biology.
Having entered the domain of the latter, he studied
various microbian diseases, and asked himself why
the organism was sometimes liable and sometimes
refractory. In order to elucidate this question, he
turned again to lower animals, in which he could easily
observe the most intimate phenomena, simplified.
He ascertained that liability in an animal corre-
sponded with the fact that microbes introduced into
the organism remained free and invaded it, whilst
immunity coincided with the inclusion and digestion
of the microbes by phagocytes.
He also found that, in artificial immunity, the
phagocytes are accustomed gradually, by preventive
inoculations, to digest microbes and their toxins.
Thus he established the fact that phagocytosis
and inflammation are curative means employed by
All his ulterior researches, his studies on the
various categories of phagocytes and their properties,
on their digestive liquids, on the formation of anti-
toxins, on the different properties acquired by the
280 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
blood, etc., were but the natural development of
He had proved that the part played by the phago-
cytes consists, not only in the struggle against microbes
and their poisons, but also in the destruction of all
the mortified or enfeebled cells of the organism, and
that atrophies are nothing more than the absorption
of cellular elements by the phagocytes.
He found that senile atrophies have the same
cause, and asked why the cells of old people's
organisms should become enfeebled.
He demonstrated that the principal cause is the
chronic poisoning of the cells by toxins manufactured
by microbes in the intestine. Premature senility was
the result a phenomenon as pathological as any
The source of the evil, therefore, resides in the
intestinal flora. Accordingly he started to study the
latter, as also senility, in order to find means of
struggling against both.
His researches enabled him to indicate a series of
means, based, on the one hand, on the struggle against
microbes, and, on the other, on the defence of the
noble cells against destructive ones. 1
The study of old age led him to that of syphilis,
a disease which provokes an arterio-sclerosis which is
similar to that of old people ; the study of the normal
intestinal flora was followed by that of intestinal
diseases, such as typhoid fever and infantile cholera.
Finally, he progressed towards the last pheno-
menon, the most mysterious in nature, Death.
1 Replacement of the wild and noxious flora of the intestines by
antagonistic cultivated microbes ; strengthening and vaccinating of noble
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 281
Researches on the silk-worm moth a rare ex-
ample of an animal the life of which ends in natural
death allowed him to conclude that the latter is
due to an auto-intoxication of the organism.
But he only just raised the veil of the great
mystery ; it was his last work. . . .
Metchnikofl's philosophical evolution ran on
parallel lines with his scientific researches.
When studying the laws and the unity of vital
phenomena he found that their harmony was occa-
sionally broken by the collision of internal conditions
with the environment and that regrettable conse-
quences ensued. He saw an example of that in human
nature, full of disharmonies due to its animal origin.
These considerations caused the pessimism of his
youth. But his energetic, pugnacious temperament
could not remain content with a passive acceptance
He started to study the lack of harmony in human
nature and its causes, and sought for means to combat
these causes. Gradually he reached the conclusion
that the greatest human disharmonies are provoked
by the rupture of the normal cycle of our life, by the
precocity of senility and of death, chiefly arising from a
chronic poisoning by the toxins of intestinal microbes.
But having acquired the conviction that it is
possible to struggle against that intoxication, he con-
cluded that science, which has already done so much
to fight diseases, would also find means of struggling
against premature old age and 'precocious death, thus
leading us to the normal vital cycle, orthobiosis.
Then disharmony, transformed into harmony, will
cause the greatest of ills to disappear.
282 LIFE OF ELIE METOHNIKOFF
Faith in the power of Science and in the possibility
of modifying human nature itself through Science
was the foundation of the optimistic philosophy of his
maturity. Thoughts full of strength and hope shine
like leading stars all along his philosophical works.
" Alone, Kational Science is capable of showing
humanity the true path."
" The real goal of human existence consists in an
active life in conformity with individual capacity ;
in a life prolonged until the appearance of the death-
instinct, and until Man, satisfied with the duration of
his existence, feels the desire for annihilation."
" Man is capable of great works ; that is why it
is desirable that he should modify human nature and
transform its disharmonies into harmonies."
"If an ideal capable of uniting men in a sort of
religion is possible, it can only be founded on scientific
principles. And, if it is true, as is often affirmed,
that man cannot live without faith, it must be faith
in the power of Science."
Thus Elie Metchnikofi had begun by the study of
nascent life in inferior beings ; by a logical and con-
tinuous chain, he had followed the whole cycle of
development of living beings in their continuity and
From the initial question of intracellular digestion
he had reached the most exalted problems which can
occupy our minds, the harmonising of human dis-
cords through knowledge and will.
Such is the harmonious edifice which he has
No vital question was indifferent to him. He
tackled the most difficult and most mysterious among
them with courage, moved by an invincible impulse
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF 283
towards Truth and sustained by enthusiasm and
faith in the power of Science.
The beauty of a work of art consists in the harmony
and unity of a realised conception.
Thus a Gothic cathedral, by its graceful and har-
monious lines, expresses an impulse towards higher
spheres; it leans solidly on the earth only in order
to soar better towards the heavens.
Such is also the character of Elie Metchnikofi's life-
WORKS OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
1865. " Beitrage zur Kenntniss der Chaetopoden," Zeitschrift fiir wissen-
schaftliche Zoologie, xv. 3, p. 328.
" Uber einige wenig bekannte Thierformen," Zeit. f. wissen. Zool.
xv. 4, p. 450.
" Uber Geodesmus bilineatus Nob. (Fasciola terrestris), eine euro-
paische Landplanarie, Melanges biologiques " (Bull, de 1' Academic
des Sciences de Saint-Petersbourg, vol. v.).
1866. " Untersuchungen iiber die Embryologie der Hemipteren (vorlaufige
Mitteilung)," Zeit. f. wissen. Zool. xvi. 1, p. 128.
" Zur Entwicklungsgeschichte von Myzostomum," Zeit. f. wissen.
Zool. xvi. 1, p. 326.
" Apsilus lentiformis, ein Raderthier," Zeit. f. wissen. Zool. xvi. 3,
" Embryologischen Studien an Insecten," Zeit. f. wissen. Zool. xvi.
Entgegnung auf die Erwiederung des Her. Prof. Leuckart in
Giessen, in Betreff der Frage iiber die Nematodenentwicklung
(Gottingen, Verlag von Adalbert Rente).
1867. " Beitrage zur Naturgeschichte der Wiirme," Zeit. f. wissen. Zool.
xvii. 4, p. 539.
"Embryology of the Sepiola" (in Russian), Archives des Sciences
physiques et naturelles, Geneve, vol. 21.
1868. " Beitrage zur Kenntniss der Entwicklungsgeschichte der Chae-
topoden " (in collaboration with Ed. Claparede), Zeit. f. wissen.
1869. "Embryology of Nebalia" (in Russian), Melanges biologiques de
l'Acad6mie de Saint-P6tersbourg, vi. p. 730.
"Untersuchungen fiber die Metamorphose einiger Seethiere,
Tornaria," Zeit. f. wissen. Zool. xx. p. 131.
"Uber ein Larvenstadium von Euphausia," Zeit. f. wissen. Zool.
xix. 4, p. 179.
" Uber die Entwicklung der Echinodermen und Nemertinen,"
Memoires de 1'Acad. de Saint-P6tersbourg, xiv. 8, p. 33.
1870. " Bemerkungen iiber Echinodermen," Bulletins de 1'Acad. de
Saint-Petersbourg, xiv. p. 51.
" Embryologie des Scorpions," Zeitschr. f. wissen. Zool. xxi.
1871. "Uber die Metamorphose einiger Seethiere," Zeit. f. wissen. Zool.
xxi. 2, p. 235.
286 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
" Entwioklungsgeschichte des Chelifers," Zeit. f. wissen. Zool. xxi.
" tlber den Naupliuszustand von Euphausia," ibid. Bd. xix.
1872. " Zur Entwioklungsgeschichte dor einfachen Ascidien," Zeit. f.
wissen. Zool. xxii. 3, p. 339.
" Vorlaufige Mitteilung iiber die Embryologie der Polydesmiden,"
Melanges biologiques des Bullet, de 1'Academie des Sciences
de Saint-Petersbourg, vol. viii.
" Zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der Kalkschwamme," Zeit. f. wissen.
Zool. xxiv. p. 1.
" Studien iiber die Entwicklung der Medusen und Siphonophoren,"
Zeit. f. wissen. Zool. xxiv. p. 15.
" Embryologie der doppelfiissigen Myriapoden," Zeit. f. wissen.
Zool. xxiv. p. 253.
1874. " Embryologisches iiber Geophilus," Zeit. f. wissen. Zool. xxv.
1876. "Beitrage zur Morphologic der Spongien," Zeit. f. wissen. Zool.
xxvii. p. 275.
1878. " Spongiologische Studien," Zeit. f. wissen. Zool. xxxii. p.
1879. " Spongiologische Studien," Zeit. f. wissen. Zool. xxxii. p. 374.
1880. " t)ber die intracellulare Verdauung bei Coelenteraten," Zoologischer
Anzeiger, No. 56, p. 261.
" Untersnchungen iiber Orthonectiden," Zeit. f. wissen. Zool.
xxxv. p. 282.
" Uber die systematische Stellung von Balanoglossus," Zoologischer
Anzeiger, pp. 139, 153.
1881. " Zur Lehre iiber die intracellulare Verdauung niederer Tiere,"
Zoologischer Anzeiger, p. 310.
Vergleichend-embryologische Studien :
1. Entodermbildung bei Geryoniden.
2. " ftber einige Studien der Cunina," Zeit. f. wissen. Zool. xxxvi.
1882. 3. "t)ber die Gastrula einiger Metazoen," Zeit. f. wissen. Zool.
xxxvii. p. 286.
" Die Embryologie von Planaria polychroa," Zeit. f. wissen. Zool.
xxxviii. 3, p. 331.
1883. " Untersuchungen iiber die intracellulare Verdauung bei wirbellosen
Tieren," Arbeiten d. zool. Instituts zu Wien, v. 2, p. 14
(Quarterly Journal of Micr. Science, vol. 93).
" Untersuchung iiber die mesodermalen Phagocyten einiger Wirbel-
tiere," Biologisch. Centralblatt, No. 18, p. 560, Bd. iii.
1884. " Embryologische Mitteilungen iiber Echinodermen," Zoologischer
Anzeiger, vii. Nos. 158, 159.
" t)ber eine Sprosspilzkrankheit der Daphnien ; Beitrag zur Lehre
iiber den Kampf der Phagocyten gegen Krankheitserreger,"
Virchow's Archiv, vol. 96, p. 177.
" t)ber die Beziehung der Phagocyten zu Milzbrandbacillen,"
Virchow's Archiv, vol. 97, p. 502.
" Uber die pathologische Bedeutung der intracellularen Verdauung,"
Fortschritte der Medizin, 1884, p. 558, No. 17.
1885. Vergleichend-embryologische Studien :
4. " tJber die Gastrulation und Mesodermbildung der Ctenophoren,
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL APPENDIX 287
5. " tJber die Bildung der Wanderzellen bei Asterien und Echiniden,"
Zeit. f. wissen. Zool. xlii. p. 656.
1886. " Medusologiache Mittheilungen," Arbeiten d. zool. Institute zu
Wien, vi. 2, p. 1.
Embryologische Studien an Medusen, ein Beitrag zur Genealogie
der Primitivorgane, Wien, 1886.
1887. " Sur 1' attenuation des bacteridies charbonneuses dans le sang des
moutons refractaires," Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, i. p. 42,
" tJber den Kampf der Zellen gegen Erysipelkokken, ein Beitrag
zur Phagocytenlehre," Virchow's Archiv, vol. 107, p. 209.
" t)ber den Phagocytenkampf bei Ruckfalltyphus," Virchow's
Archiv, vol. 109, p. 176.
"Sur la lutte des cellules de 1'organisme centre 1'invasion des
microbes," Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, i. p. 321, No. 7.
" Kritische Bemerkungen iiber den Aufsatz des Hernn. Christmas-
Direkinck - Holmfeld, I. V.," Fortschritte der Medizin, 17,
1888. " tJber die phagocytare Rolle der Tuberkelriesenzellen," Virchow's
Archiv, vol. 113, p. 63.
" Pasteuria Ramosa, un representant des bact^ries a division longi-
..tudinale," Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, p. 165, t. ii. No. 4.
" fiber das Verhalten der Milzbrandbakterien im Organismus,"
Virchow's Archiv, vol. 114, p. 465.
"Reponse a la critique de M. Weigert au sujet des cellules
geantes de la tuberculose," Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, ii.
1889. " Recherches sur la digestion intracellulaire," Annales de 1'Institut
Pasteur, iii. p. 25, No. 1.
" Contribution a 1'etude du pleomorphisme des bacteries," Annales
de 1'Institut Pasteur, iii. p. 61, No. 2.
"Note sur le pleomorphisme, etc.," Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur,
iii. p. 265, No. 5.
Studies on Immunity :
1. " Immunite des lapins contre le bacille du rouget des pores,"
Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, iii. p. 289, No. 6.
1890. 2. " Le Charbon des pigeons," Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, iv.
p. 65, No. 2.
3. " Le Charbon des rats blancs," Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur,
iv. p. 193, No. 4.
1891. 4. "L'Immunite' des cobayes vaccines contre le Vibrio Metchnikowi,"
Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, v. p. 465, No. 8.
" Sur la propriete bactericide du sang de rat " (in collaboration with
Dr. Roux), No. 8.
" Recherches sur 1'accoutumance aux produits microbiens " (in
collaboration with Dr. Roudenko), Annales de 1'Institut Pas-
teur, v. p. 567, No. 9.
" Beitrage zur vergleichenden Pathologie der Entzxindung," Virchow
Festschrift, vol. 11.
1892. "La Phagooytose musculaire " (in collaboration with Dr. Sou-
dakevitch), Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, vi. p. 1.
Le9ons sur la pathologic compare* de rinflammation. Paris, 1892.
" On Aqueous Humour, Micro-organisms and Immunity," Journal
of Pathology, i.
288 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
Studies on Immunity :
5. " Immunite des lapins vaccines centre le microbe du Hogcholera,"
Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, vi. p. 189, No. 5.
" Atrophie des muscles pendant la transformation des batraciens,"
Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, vi. No. 1.
" Note au sujet du memoire de M. Soudakevitch (Parasitisme in-
tracellulaire des neoplasmes cancereux)," No. 3.
" tfber Muskelphagocytose," Centralblatt fiir Bakteriologie, 1892.
" La Lutte pour 1'existence entre les diverses parties de 1'organisme,"
Revue scientifique, 10 sept. 1892, No. 11.
1893. " Recherches sur le cholera et les vibrions, l er memoire " (Sur la
propriete preventive du sang humain vis-a-vis du vibrion de
Koch), Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, vii. p. 403, No. 5.
2. " Memoire," idem (Sur la propriete pathogene des vibrions),
tome vii. p. 562, No. 7.
Comparative Pathology of Inflammation. Lectures at the Pasteur
Institute. Paul: London, 1893. 8vo. (The name of the
translator is not stated. )
1894. 3. "Memoire," idem (Sur la vaccination artificielle du vibrion
cholerique), Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, viii. p. 257, No. 5.
4. " Memoire," idem (Sur 1'immunite et la receptivite vis-a-vis du
cholera intestinal), tome viii. p. 529, No. 8.
" L'etat actuel de la question de I'immunite " (Rapport du Congres
international de Budapest), Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, viii.
p. 706, No. 10.
1895. Studies on Immunity :
6. ' ' Sur la destruction extracellulaire des bact6ries dans rorganisme,"
Annales de I'lnstitut Pasteur, ix. p. 433, No. 6.
1896. " Toxine et antitoxine choleriques " (in collaboration with Drs. Roux
and Salimbeni), Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, x. p. 25, No. 5.
" Quelques remarques a propos de 1'article de Gabritchevsky sur la
fievre recurrente," Annales de I'lnstitut Pasteur, x. No. 11
Recherches sur V influence de Vorganisme sur les toxines :
1897. 1st Memoir. " Recherches sur 1'influence de 1'organisme sur les
toxines," Annales de I'lnstitut Pasteur, xi. p. 801.
"Reponse a M. Gabritchevsky," Annales de I'lnstitut Pasteur,
xi. No. 3.
" Immunitat," Weyl's Handbuch der Hygiene. lena, 1897.
" Recherches sur 1'influence de 1'organisme sur les toxines " (Com-
munication faite au congres de Moscou en aout 1897), Annales
de I'lnstitut Pasteur, xi. No. 10.
1898. 2nd Memoir. "Influence du systeme nerveux sur la toxine
tetanique," Annales de I'lnstitut Pasteur, xii. No. 2, p. 81.
3rd Memoir. " Toxine tetanique et leucocytes," Annales de
1'Institut Pasteur, xii. No. 4, p. 263.
1899. "Resorption des cellules," Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, xiii.
No. 10, p. 737.
1900. Researches on the Influence of the Organism on Toxins :
4eme memoire. " Sur la spermotoxine et I'antispermotoxine,"
Annales de I'lnstitut Pasteur, xiv. p. 5.
"Sur les cytotoxines," .Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, xiv. No. 6.
" Recherches sur 1'action de 1'hemotoxine sur 1'homme," Annales
de I'lnstitut Pasteur, xiv. No. 6, p. 402.
BIBLIOGBAPHICAL APPENDIX 289
1901. Biological Studies on Old Age :
1st Memoir. " Sur le blanchiment des cheveux et des poils,"
Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, xv. No. 12, p. 865.
L'Immunite dans les maladies infectieuses. Paris, 1901.
1902. Biological Studies on Old Age. " Recherches sur la vieillesse des
perroquets " (in collaboration with Drs. Mesnil and Weinberg),
Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, xvi. No. 12.
The Nature of Man. Studies in optimistic philosophy. The English
translation by P. Chalmers Mitchell. Heinemann : London ;
Putnams : New York, 1903. 8vo.
1903. Studies on Human Nature : Paris, 1903.
Etudes experimentales sur la syphilis (in collaboration with Dr.
1st Memoir. Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, xvii. No. 12, p. 809.
1904. 2nd Memoir, "Eludes experimentales sur la syphilis" (in col-
laboration with Dr. Roux), Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, xviii.
No. 1, p. 1.
3rd Memoir. Id. No. 11.
1905. 4th Memoir. Id. Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, xix. No. 11.
Immunity in Infective Diseases. Translated from the French by
F. G. Binnie. University Press : Cambridge ; The Macmillan
Co. : New York, 1905. 8vo.
1906. 5th Memoir. Id., Annales de PInstitut Pasteur, xx. No. 10.
The New Hygiene : three lectures on the prevention of infectious
diseases. Translated and a preface written by E. Ray Lankester.
Heinemann : London, 1906. 8vo.
[Another edition.] Chicago Medical Book Co. : Chicago, 1906. 8vo.
1907. [Another edition.] W. T. Keener & Co. : Chicago, 1907. 8vo.
"Sur la prophylaxie de la syphilis" (Paper read at the Xllth
International Congress in Berlin), Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur,
xxi. No. 10.
The Prolongation of Life: optimistic studies. The English trans-
lation edited by P. Chalmers Mitchell. Heinemann: London,
1908. "Eludes sur la flore intestinale," "Putrefaction intestinale,"
Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, xxii. No. 12.
1909. Idem. " Roussettes et microbes" (in collaboration with MM.
Weinberg, Pozersky, Distaso, Berthelot), Annales de 1'Institut
Pasteur, xxiii. No. 12.
Notes on Sour Milk and other Methods of administering Selected
Lactic Germs in Intestinal Bacterio-therapy. J. Bale, Sons &
Co. : London, 1909. 8vo.
1910. Idem. " Poisons intestinaux et scleroses," Annales de 1'Institut
Pasteur, xxiv. No. 10.
The Prolongation of Life. New and revised edition. Heinemann :
London ; Putnams : New York, 1910. 8vo.
1911. " Sur la fievre typholde experimentale " (Metchnikoff et Besredka),
Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur, xxv. No. 3.
Annales de 1'Institut Pasteur :
Tome xxv. No. 6. Quelques remarques sur la vaccination a propos
du memoire de M. Choukevitch sur le cholera.
Tome xxv. No. 6. Reponse de MM. Metchnikoff et Besredka a
M. le Dr. Vincent (remarques sur la vaccination antityphique).
290 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
Tome xxv. No. 11. El. Metchnikoff, E. Burnet et L. Tarassevitch,
" Recherches sur 1'epidemiologie de la tuberculose dans les steppes
Tome xxv. No. 12. El. Metchnikoff et A. Besredka, " Des vaccina
tions antityphiques (2nd Memoir)."
1912. Tome xxvi. No. 11. El. Metchnikoff et Bug. Wollman, "Sur
quelquesessaisde desintoxication intestinale," " BactSriotherapie
The Warfare against Tuberculosis being the Priestley Lecture
of the National Health Society for the year 1912. Published
in Bedrock, January 1913. Constable : London.
1913. Etudes sur la flore intestinale.
Tome xxvii. No. 8. " Des vaccinations antityphiques " (El. Metchni-
koff et A. Besredka).
Tome xxvii. No. 11. " Toxicite des sulfoconjugues de la serie
1914. Tome xxviii. No. 2. " Eludes sur la flore intestinale "(4emememoire).
" Les diarrhees des nourrissons."
1915. Tome xxix. No. 8. " Causerie de El. Metchnikoff a 1'occasion de
Tome xxix. No. 10. " La Mort du papillon du murier."
" Founders of Modern Medicine : Pasteur, Lister, Koch " in Russian
(a French translation to appear shortly).
1916-16. " Introduction a ' Eludes sur la fonction sexuelle ' " (posthume,
dans Le Mercure de France, 1917).
1916. The Nature of Man. Popular edition. Heinemann : London,
Note. Sources consulted : British Museum Catalogue ; English Catalogue ;
Accelomata, development of, 73
Albaran, Dr., 231
Alexander L, Tsar of Russia, 26
Alexander II., 28 ; assassination of,
101, 104, 218
Alexis Michailovitch, Tsar, sends
Spatar on mission to China, 24 ;
death of, 25
Alhambra, the, 124
Amour (Amur) river, Spatar's ex-
ploration of, 24
Anisoplia austriaca, experiments on,
Annales de Vlnstitut Pasteur, 1915,
Anthrax vaccine experiment, un-
fortunate result of, 133-4
Anthropoid apes, Metchnikofl's de-
sire to experiment with, 140, 189 ;
syphilis experiments with, 190,
191 ; infantile cholera experi-
ments with, 207, 220 ; typhoid
fever experiments with, 207
Antitoxins, Metchnikoff's experi-
ments with, 162
Arbeiten des zool. Inst. zu Wien, pub-
lication of Metchnikoff's " Unter-
suchung iiber die intracellulare
Verdauung bei wirbellosen Tier-
en," 119 n.
Arterio-sclerosis, 189, 206
Ascidia, Metchnikoff's difference
with Kovalevsky re, 62, 73
Asiatic cholera, 220
Astrakhan steppes, 84, 85
Austria, declaration of war on Serbia,
Baer, Prof., and Baer Prize, 58
Bakounine, 52, 56
Bardach, Dr., 127, 133
Bassarab, Constantino, 24
Baumgarten, Prof., hostile criticism
of phagocyte theory, 126, 129 ;
criticism refuted, 148
Behring, theory of immunity, 148 ;
discovery of antitoxins, 149, 150
Beketoff, Prof., 40, 58
Bell, the, 29
Berlin Congress, 1890, 148-9
Berthelot, M., pupil and collaborator
of Metchnikoff, 197, 221
Besredka, Dr., researches, 161-2,
Birsch, 169 n.
Bobrinsky, Count, 111, 112
Bombyx mori (moth of the silk-worm),
Metchnikoff's experiments with,
Bordet, M. I., important researches
and experiments, 165
Borrel, M., 162
Brockhaus and Effrone, Encyclo-
paedia quoted, 25-6
Brone, Classes and Orders of the
Animal Kingdom, 31
Biichner, 169, 265 ; paper on humoral
Buckle, History of Civilisation, 29
Buda-Pest Congress (International,
Bulletin of the Moscow Society of
Burnet, M., 211
Caillaux affair, 240
Cantemir, Prince, 26
Casso, Minister of Public Instruction,
Cephalopoda, Metchnikoff's study
of, 56, 57
Chauveau, 169 and n.
Cholera outbreak in France, 1892,
154 ; Metchnikoff's experiments
with cholera vibrio, 154-7, 158
Choukevitch, Dr., 212
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
Cienkovsky, friendship for and
interest in Metchnikoff, 59, 60,
73 ; resigns from Odessa Uni-
versity, 75 ; bacillus, 210
Clauss, Prof., 48, 119
Coelentera and intracellular diges-
tion, 107, 110, 116
Ccelomata, development of, 73
Cohendy, M., research work of,
Cohn, association with and interest
in Metchnikoff, 43, 45
" Conception of Nature and of
Medical Science, A," Metchnikoff's
Stuttgart Lecture, 1909, 209, 224
Crimea, and Black Sea fauna, 59
" Curative Forces of the Organism,
The," Metchnikoff Lecture on,
in Berlin, 1908, 208, 223
Curded milk, manufacture, Metchni-
koff's connection with, 226-7
Daphnise, experiments with, 121,
Darre, Dr., 256, 266, 271
Darwin, The Origin of Species, 41 ;
theories, 276, 277
Dubois-Reymond, journal of, 48
Duclaux, M., 137, 265
Duniasha (AvdotiaMaximovna),4, 10
Eberth's bacillus, 207-8
Echinodermata, Metchnikoff's re-
searches, etc., 61, 62, 70; meta-
morphoses of, 72, 73; and intra-
cellular digestion, 107, 110, 116;
observations on larvae transforma-
Education from an Anthropological
Point of View, Metchnikoff's paper
on, 63, 74
Ehrlich, Prof., 199, 265
Embryology, comparative, Metchni-
koff's studies in, 50-51, 56, 57, 107,
Emmerich, 265 ; attack on phagocyte
theory, 131 ; attacks refuted, 148
Ephemeridse, Metchnikoff's study of,
105, 106, 193, 237
Essais optimistes, 191-2, 209
Etudes sur la nature humaine, 185,
191, 209 ; quoted, 188
Evolution, Metchnikoff's researches
Fabricia, Metchnikoff's researches
Fedorovitch, Mile. Ludmilla, after-
wards Madame Elie Metchnikoff,
63 ; engagement to Metchnikoff,
65-9 ; marriage to Metchnikoff,
69 ; illness of, 69-70 ; a clever
draughtswoman, 71 ; temporary
recovery of, 73 ; relapse, 74, 75,
78; death, 79
Fedorovitch, Mile., 71, 74, 78, 80;
account of interview with Metchni-
" Flora of the Human Body,"
Wilde Lecture, 1901, 182
Flore du corps humain, La, 224
" Forces curatives de 1'organisme,"
Forty Years' Search for a Rational
Conception of Life, 223
Founders of Modern Medicine, The,
extract from preface to, 247-8
Fraenkel, Carl, 265
Gamaleia, Dr., 127, 133
Garibaldi Movement, the, 47
Gamier, M., 21, 22
Gastrcea, Haeckel's theory of the, 108
" Gastrotricha," Metchnikoff's es-
tablishment of, 42
Geneva, young revolutionary centre,
Oeodesmus bilineatus, 106-7
Geophilus (see Myriapoda)
George, Henry, 202
Germany, Metchnikoff's apprecia-
tion of scientists of, 55
Germany, declaration of war on
Russia, 240 ; on France, 242
Giessen, Naturalists' Congress at,
Glycobacter peptonicus, 221, 222
Goethe, Faust, 195, 204
Goldschmidt, Dr., 78, 79
Gottingen News, Leuckart's memoir
on Nematodes in, 48
Gravitz, 169 n.
Grove, The Unity of Physical Forces,
Guancios, Caves of the, 77
Haeckel, theory of the gastrcea, 108
Hayem, 169 n.
Heitz, Dr., 231
Heligoland, flora and fauna of, 43
Henle, Prof., 54
Herzen, Passe et pensees, 47
Hirschfeld, 169 n.
Hodounof, 19, 20, 22
Hueppe, Prof., 131
Hugo, Victor, 260 n.
lamanouchi, M., 211
Immunity, 122 ; opposing theories
of Behring and Metchnikoff, 148,
149, 150, 151; ancient and
modern theories of, 168-70 ;
Metchnikoff 's exposition of, 171-
Immunity in Infectious Diseases, 170
Infantile cholera, 207, 220-21
Inflammation, Metchnikoff's lectures
Intestinal flora, problem of, 196-8,
206; further researches, 220,
235, 280 ; experiments with rats,
Intracellular digestion, Metchnikoff's
studies of, 57, 105, 107, 110, 116,
170, 277, 278
Jaures, assassination of, 240
Jelly-fish, Metchnikoff's monograph
on embryology of, 126
Jenner and method of antivariolic
Journal de Moscou, Elie Metchni-
koff's first publication in, 33
Jupille, M., 155
Kalmuk steppes, Metchnikoff's
journey to, 82-3 ; description of,
215-16 ; Metchnikoff's anthropo-
logical work among natives of,
84-5 ; liability of natives to
tuberculosis, 210-11 ; Pasteur In-
stitute expedition to, 212 ; descrip-
tion of, 215-17
Keferstein, Prof., 54
Kent, Saville, discoveries of Proto-
Kharkoff, 1,1 6,20; Lycee, progress in,
28 ; University, ancient methods
in, 31-2, 37, 40
Kherson, peasants' grievances and
vexatious conduct in, 113, 114
Kirghiz steppes, endemic plague in,
211 ; Russian plague mission to,
211, 215, 218; description of, 214
Kleinenberg, Prof., encouragement
of Metchnikoff, 118, 119
Kleps, 169 n.
Koch, Prof., 265; attitude to
Metchnikoff's theory, 133, 149
Kolliker, Prof., 37
Kovalevsky, Alexander, friendship
with Metchnikoff, 49, 58 ; work of,
51,52,61, 62, 72, 73, 108 ; divides
Baer Prize with Metchnikoff, 58
Latapie, M., 155
Law of Life, The, 223
Lemons sur la pathologie comparee de
Leube, Dr., 231
Leuckart, Prof., 43-5, 46
Lister, Dr., 148
London Congress, 149-50
Lubarsch, attacks on Metchnikoff's
Macaques or Barbary apes, 124 ;
Metchnikoff's typhoid experi-
ments with, 207-8
Macrophages, 163-4, 166, 178, 184
Maeterlinck, Maurice, 228-9
Maisonneuve, M., 191
Malaga, gardens of, 124
Manoukhine, Dr., 231
Martin, Dr., 256, 273
Medusa?, 72, 73, 116
Mertens, 76, 79
Messenger of Europe, Metchnikoff's
contributions to, 208-9, 239 n.
Messina, Metchnikoff's work at, 61
Messina, the Metchnikoff home at,
Messina, earthquake at, 1908, 115, 116
Metchnikoff, Dmitri Ivanovitch,
devotion to his brother's family,
5, 17, 21, 28 ; appearance and
character, 5-6 ; other references,
Metchnikoff, Elie (or Ilia), parents'
home at Panassovka, 1-3 ; birth
of, 3 ; appearance and disposition
in childhood, 8-11 ; early indica-
tions of unusual intelligence, 9,
16, 20 ; an adventurous journey
to Slaviansk, 12-15; life at
Kharkoff, 16-18 ; develops natural
history tastes with Hodounoff,
20-22; ancestry, 23-7; entry
into and progress at Kharkoff
Lycee, 28-34 ; friendships and their
294 LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
influence, with Bogomoloff, 29,
with Tchelkoff, 32-3, 42, with
Kovalevsky, 48 seq., with Cien-
kovsky, 59-60, with Kleinenberg,
Virchow, and others, 118-19, with
Pasteur, 132 seq., various, 56,
58-9, 63, 65, 93, 137; adopts
atheism and shows continued
interest in natural history, 29-30 ;
love of music, 31, 34, 54-5, 93;
plans a scientific career, 31 ; early
publications, 33, 41 ; devotion to
his mother, 35, 93-4 ; early love
affairs, 35-6 ; abortive journey to
Wiirzburg, 37-9 ; at Kharkoff
University, 40-42; an early con-
troversy with Kuhne, 41 ; in-
fluenced by Darwin, 41, 50 ; early
researches and privations in Heli-
goland, 43-5 ; letters to his mother
quoted, 44-6, 65-9 ; at Giessen
Congress, 45 ; work and relations
with Leuckart, 45-8 ; eyesight
troubles, 46, 62, 82-3, 105 ; visit
to Geneva, 46-8 ; researches,
Mediterranean, 48-53, 56-7, 61
seq., in the Crimea, 59-60, at
Spezzia, etc., 70-73, anthropo-
logical among Kalmuks, 84-5, in
intracellular digestion and Ephe-
meridse, 105-11, 116, in infectious
diseases, 128, in tuberculosis and
phagocytosis, 133 ; at Pasteur
Institute, 135-6, in cholera, 154-
157, in immunity, 168-80, in
senile atrophies and intestinal flora,
182-9, 191, 196-8, 206-8, 220 seq.,
in syphilis, 189-91, in infantile
cholera and typhoid, 207-8, 220,
in tuberculosis and plague among
Kalmuks, 210-19; silk - worm
moth, 238-9, 251 ; contribution to
foundation of comparative em-
bryology, 51, 56 ; studies in
Germany and opinion of German
scientists, 54-5, 57 ; illnesses, 55-
56, 65, 104, 181, 217, 222, 229 seq.,
249 ; return to Russia and Odessa
University appointment, 58-60 ;
appointed Zoology Professor at
Petersburg, 61 ; interest in edu-
cational questions, 63, 100; life
at Petersburg, 63-4, 71 seq. ;
engagement and first marriage,
66-70; reappointed to Odessa
University and difficulties of
appointment, 73, 75, 78, 98 seq. ;
his philosophical theory and its
evolution, 74-7, 184-9, 191-5, 209,
222-4, 228-9, 281-3 ; visit to and
life at Madeira, 75-7; death of first
wife, 79 ; attempts suicide, 80-81 ;
Mile. Fedorovitch's description of,
83 ; journey to Astrakhan steppes,
82-3 ; studies of childhood, 86 ;
meeting with family of second
wife and growing intimacy, 86-8,
94, Setchenoffs description of,
88 ; harmony of second marriage,
89-95 ; character and disposition,
96-8, 143-5 ; views of women's
scientific capacity, 103 ; inocu-
lates himself with relapsing fever,
104 ; and the phagocyte theory,
first statement of, 110, describes
first inception of, 116-17, pro-
gress in, 117-22, 126, 128, 142,
148, 150-53, 158-66, 183, 208-9,
controversies and attacks on,
131, 133, 142, 147-9; difficulties
over Russian estate manage-
ment, 112-14 ; life at Messina,
115-19; again returns to Russia,
119; journey through Spain to
Tangiers, 123-4 ; life at Tangiers
and Villefranche, 125-6 ; describes
work at Bacteriological Institute,
Odessa, 127-8 ; describes first
meeting with Pasteur, 132 ;
Pasteur's offer, 132; visit to
Berlin and reception by German
scientists, 133 ; work and in-
fluence at Pasteur Institute, 135-
146 ; M. Roux's appreciations of,
138-9, 150, Ij59 ; other apprecia-
tions, 141, 165 ; life at Sevres and
Paris, 144-5 ; visit to England,
149 ; triumph at London Con-
gress, 150 ; interest in Pfeiffer's
phenomenon, 158-60 ; theory and
studies of natural death, 192-5,
230-35, 237-8, 252 ; receives Nobel
Prize, 199 ; journey to Sweden
and Russia, 199-200; visit to
Tolstoi, 200-205 ; expedition to
Kalmuk steppes, 210 seq. ; un-
pleasant incident of lacto-bacilli
fabrication, 225-7 ; kindness to
friends, 227-8 ; descriptions of
his own symptoms, etc., 229-36,
250-51, 263-5; holidays at St.
Leger - en - Yvelines, 228, 237-9,
251 ; effect of war on, 239-46, 261 ;
preface to Founders of Modern
Medicine quoted, 247-8 ; plans
a work on sexual questions, 249,
252, 260; jubilee celebrations,
249-50 ; last illness, 254-73 ; last
days at Pasteur Institute, 256-73 ;
death, 273 ; synopsis of work and
Metchnikoff, Madame, meeting with
Metchnikoff, 87, parents and
family, 87-8, 94, marriage, 89,
90, relations between husband
and wife, 90-95, illness of, in
1880, 104, loss of both parents,
112, illnesses of, 123, 181, 252
Metchnikoff, Emilia Lvovna (nee
Nevahovna), appearance and dis-
position, 2, 5, 6, 93; a capable
housewife, 3 ; a devoted mother,
4, 6, 13, 14, 18, 37 ; delicacy of,
22 ; ancestors, 26 ; influence on
Elie Metchnikoff's choice of a
career, 41 ; endeavours to prevent
Elie's first marriage, 66 ; letters
to, from Elie quoted, 44-5, 65-69 ;
death of, 94
Metchnikoff, Elena Samoilovna,
4, 8, 10
Metchnikoff, Ilia Ivanovitch, home
at Panassovka, 1, appearance
and character, 2, marriage, 2, easy-
going temperament, and extrava-
gance, 2-6, attitude to his family
and servants, 6-7
Metchnikoff, Ivan, 3, 8
Metchnikoff, Katia, appearance and
character, 8, marriage, 16, 21,
other references, 12, 14
Metchnikoff, Leo, 3, 8, illness of,
19, gifted but superficial nature
of, 19, 46-7 ; activities in Geneva
and connection with Garibaldi
Movement, 46-7, 80
Metchnikoff, Nicholas, birth of, 3 ;
appearance, 8 ; his great-aunt's
favourite, 8, 10 ; boyhood pur-
suits, 17-18; enters Kharkoff
Lycee, 28 ; life in Kharkoff, 31 ;
death of, 230
Microphagw, 163-4, 166
Morosoffs, the, of Moscow, 189
Moscow, Anthropological Society of,
Metchnikoff's report to, 85
Moscow, International Congress,
1897, 164-5; Skin Disease Re-
search Society, 189
Miiller, Fritz, Far Darwin, 50
Muller's Archives, Metchnikoff's
memoir on the Vorticella in, 41
Myriapoda, embryology of, 76, I
Naegeli, 169 n.
Naples, cholera epidemic in, 1865,
53; Metchnikoff's first stay at,
49-53, second stay, 62
Napoleon, 260 n.
Natural death, Metchnikoff's studies
of, 237, 280-81
Natural science, Metchnikoff's cam-
paign for the teaching of, 100
Nematodes, Metchnikoff's dis-
coveries, etc., 42, 46
Nevahovitch, Leo, 26
Nicholas I., 28
Nobel Prize, the, 199
Nocard, M., 265; appreciation of
Norden, Dr., 231
Odessa, University of, 58-9, Metch-
nikoff's work at, 60-61, 98-9,
party intrigues at, 75, 101, rights
to autonomy threatened, 101-3,
Congress, 1883, 120, bacteriologi-
cal Institute founded at, 127
Oldenburg, Prince of, 129
Panassovka, the home of the
Metchnikoff s, 1, 3, fire at, 20-21
Parenchymella, explanation of, 109-
Paris, International Congress, 1900,
Paris, air raids on, 246
Pasteur, antirabic inoculations, 127,
Metchnikoff's first interview with,
132, friendship with Metchnikoff
and interest in phagocyte theory,
137, experiments in vaccination
andimmunity, 168-9, death of, 181,
discovery of lactic fermentation
microbe, 193, age at death, 265
Pasteur Institute, the, 132, Metch-
nikoff's work and influence at, 134-
142, 144, Metchnikoff's apprecia-
tion of, 139, effect of outbreak of
European War on, 244-5 ; celebra-
tion of Metchnikoff's jubilee, 249
Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia, 24,
Petersburg, 2, 19, Congress of
Russian Naturalists at, 1867,60-61,
difficult conditions of Metchni-
koff's work at, 63-4, 71, foundation
of Bacteriological Institute at,
Petersburg Geographical Society, 82
Petrushka, 4, 12, 13
LIFE OF ELIE METCHNIKOFF
Pettenkoffer, 154, 236
Pfeiffer, 265, experiments in extra-
cellular destruction of microbes,
158-60, 165-6, 175; attacks on
Metchnikoff's theory, 232
Phagocytella, 110, 126
Phagocytes, origin of Metchnikoff's
theory of, 51, 57, 278, develop-
ment of theory, 110, 111, 113,
120-22, 142, inception of theory,
116-19, Baumgarten's hostile
criticism of theory, 126 ; applica-
tion of theory to erysipelas, 128,
opposition to theory, 131, 151,
controversy, 148, renewed ex-
periments for proving theory, 148,
149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 279;
vindication of, at Buda-Pest Con-
gress, 159, 160 ; experiments
with toxins and poisons, 160-62;
experiments with antitoxins, 162-
164, and doctrine of immunity,
170-80, and senility, 183, 280 '
Phagocytosis, Metchnikoff's first
paper on, read at Odessa Congress
of Physicians and Naturalists,
Picot, E., Chronicle of John Neculua
Pirquet's test, 211
Pleomorphism of Microbes, Metchni-
koff's memoir, 1888, 211
Poland, Revolution in, 1830, 26
Popular Star, 29
Preyer, theory of fatigue and sleep,
Protospongia, discovery of, by Saville
Pushkin, 2, 26
Radlkoffer, The Crystals of Proteic
Recklinghausen, 169 n.
Relapsing fever, experiments to
prove phagocytic reaction, 129
Renon, Dr., 255
Rotifera, 193, 237-8
Rousseau, J. J., Confessions and the
Nouvelk Heloise, 260 n.
Roux, Dr., 137, 255, appreciation
of Metchnikoff quoted, 138-9,
141, 159, 249 ; collaboration with
Metchnikoff, 150, 162, 163, 164,
wins Osiris Prize, 189 ; reply to
campaign against Metchnikoff,
226 ; friendship with and visits to
Metchnikoff in his last illness,
257, 267, 273
Rubenstein, M., 260
St. Leger-en-Yvelines, 228, 237
Salimbeni, Dr., 163, 184, 211, 215,
256, 266, 272-3
Sanarelli, Dr., discovery of choleri-
form bacilli, 156
Schaudinn, discovery of syphilitic
Scorpion, the, Metchnikoff's re-
searches concerning the develop-
ment of, 71
Senility and death, Metchnikoff's
views on and researches, 182-8,
Serums, their action, 177
Setchenoff, Prof., 52-3, 71, 73, 78,
239 ; autobiography quoted, 88
Sevres, Metchnikoff Villa at, 144, 145
Slaviansk, adventurous journey of
the Metchnikoff family to, 12
Spain, Metchnikoff 's eventful journey
Spatar, Joury Stepanovitch, 26
Spatar, Nicholas Milescu, exploits
and adventures of, 23-4, mission
to China, 24, literary activities
and services to Peter the Great,
25, death of, 25
Spezzia, the Metchnikoffs sojourn
Sponges and Echinodermata, Metch-
nikoff's study of, 61, 72, 106, 117
Stepanita, Prince, his dealings with
Nicholas Milescu Spatar, 24
Syphilis, Metchnikoff's researches
on, 189-91, 280
Tangiers, journey to, through Spain,
123-4, description of, 124-6
Tarassevitch, Dr., 212
Tchistovitch, Dr., 231
Time for Marriage, The, Metchnikoff's
paper on, 77
Tolstoi, Leon, a day at lasnala
Tolstoi, Countess, 203
Tornaria, Metchnikoff's discovery
Toxins and the phagocyte theory,
experiments, 160 seq.
Trattoria della harmonia, the, 53
Trieste, Metchnikoff's work at, 62
Tschelkoff, Prof., 32, 33, 40, 41, 42
Tshori, Convent of, 217
Tuberculosis, researches on phago-
cytosis, in, 133; Metchnikoff's
theory of natural vaccination,
Typhoid fever, 207-8
Vaquez, Dr., 230
Veillon, Dr., 256
Vienna, Hygienists' Conference at,
Villa Orotava, giant dragon-tree at,
Virchow, cellular theory, 32, 48,
169 n. ; encouragement of Metchni-
koff, 118-19; Archives, publication
of Metchnikoff's researches in, 122,
Volga, description of, 212-13
von Noorden, 182
von Sieboldt, Prof., 54
Vorticella, the, Metchnikoff's mem-
oir on, 41
Waldeyer, 169 n.
Weinberg, M., 184
Widal, Dr., 255, 256
Wollman, pupil and collaborator of
Metchnikoff, 196-7, 221
Wiirzburg, University of, Metchni-
koff's abortive journey to, 37
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